Nigeria: Social sector financing and dwindling donors’ resources

By Abubakar Jimoh

The rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP has projected the nation as a middle income economy resulting in consequent dwindling donors’ resources with the effect that by 2022 the country will witness reduction in availability of grants and more external funds that can be accessed through higher interest loans.

Efforts at providing an enabling platform for inter legislative Committees dialogue to interact in proffering holistic solutions to the current trend and challenges confronting adequate and sustainable social sector financing coupled with the need to harness and strengthen domestic resources for social sector financing in the face of dwindling funding led to a one-day retreat for National Assembly Members organised by House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation in conjunction with Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) recently in Abuja.

Giving his opening address, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) noted that the Retreat was primarily triggered by the current but unpleasant trend arising from pervasive dwindling donors’ resources, which without pretence leaves Nigeria as one of the major beneficiaries with a challenge and no option than to proactively brainstorm, provoke critical discussions and harness potential for domestic resource mobilisation for sustainable social sector financing to inform appropriate legislative decisions and policy directions in Nigeria.

As adequate and sustainable financing for social sector remains paramount to achieve healthy, secured and developed society, the Executive Director recounted the Nigeria’s ailing health, agriculture and education sectors that have hitherto suffered from inadequate financing, warning that though “donor resources play an integral role in complementing Nigerian governments’ efforts in social sector financing, however, we must as well not lose sight to acknowledge the present reality and proffer holistic measures to avert the detrimental impacts dwindling donors’ resources may pose to our nation’s social sector investment and development”.

He noted: “While the fundamental purpose of humanitarian aid by any government is to support the efforts of a receiving nation at revitalising her social sector as well as uplifting the poor from extreme poverty, which renders them incapacitated to attain self-reliance and effectively fight diseases, the present dwindling donors’ resources, if not instantly matched with concrete legislative and policy measures will without doubt revert existing achievements and backpedal development of our nation’s social sector.

The CISLAC’s boss provided an exclusive narration of the current development in donors’ resources to Nigeria, when he reveals: “It is no more news that the rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP has firmed up the nation’s position as an emerging market economy. However, in the wake of GDP re-basing, Nigeria is fast witnessing down-slopping trend in donors’ resources, practically buttressed by the recent international decisions to withdraw funding for social sector like the European Union (EU) which specifically withdraws financial support for Nigeria, saying the country has enough resources to meet her developmental needs; Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative (GAVI) which runs out by 2020 with potentially 7.5million children losing access to live-saving vaccines annually; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warning governments to take full responsibility of their respective nutrition financing while their refusal may lead to another 2.5 million severely acute malnourished children and grossly intensify child mortality in the country.”

He did not conceal the similar and most recent development from proposed international aid cut by the United States, stating that if such executed without proactive national measures, will constitute additional challenge to the development of Nigeria’s social sector financing.

The Chairman House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Mustapha Bala Dawaki in his goodwill message urged concerted efforts by relevant stakeholders towards local production of immunisation vaccine to reduce high financial burden associating with vaccine procurement which constitutes the a major component of donors’ support in Nigeria, calling for a strengthen collaboration between executive and legislature arms to support and fast-track the process.

He said the continued mono-economic practice and lack of innovation in domestic resource mobilisation with particular focus on oil revenue had discouraged the nation’s capacity and efforts at diversifying and effectively harnessing domestic resources for financing social sector.

Also, lamenting delay and inadequate release of appropriated funds which remain systemic challenges to resource mobilisation, allocation and utilisation for the social sector development in the country, the Chairman House Committee on Finance, Hon. Babangida Ibrahim urged increased domestic financial priority for key sectors of the economy to mitigate wastage and shortfall in resource mobilisation and allocation for adequate and sustainable social sector financing.

The Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akabueze added that while the rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP has projected the country as a middle income economy with propensity for incessant dwindling donors’ resources, by 2022 there will be decreased availability of grants with more external funds that can be accessed through higher interest loans.

He revealed that a Technical Committee has been constituted by the Budget and Planning Office will critically observe, analyse, and address the impacts of Nigeria’s transition from lower to middle income status.

“After the rebasing, Nigeria was rated a Middle Income country, meaning that Nigeria should be able to take care of its own. By the year 2022, Nigeria will bear the full cost of vaccines formerly funded by GAVI. Most donors’ resources are already on their way out. Therefore we must take cognizance of this fact,” the Director-General explained.

Mr. Vishal Gujadhur, Lead Presenter also Senior Program Officer, Development Policy and Finance in USA noted that though in 2010, while Nigeria’s GDP almost doubled with per capita income much higher than originally thought, it as well showed untapped revenues from non-oil sectors and weakness in the nation’s revenue mobilisation.

He said: “As countries grow wealthier, donors begin assessing whether a country can pay its own way. With a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of $2,450, Nigeria is now squarely a lower middle income country (LMIC). It continues to receive significant concessional funding – for example from the World Bank, Gavi, and bilateral donors like DFID.

“When a country is above the ‘threshold’, it will be ‘graduated’ from assistance. In 2016 Nigeria fully exited the ADF which is the concessional window of the AfDB – a marker of things to come.”

The Senior Program Officer observed that based on Official Development Assistance (ODA), between 2011 and 2015, Nigeria received an average of $2.9 billion in aid flows. To size this figure, he recalled that ODA inflows in 2015 at $3.2bn were more than total government expenditure on education.

“Nigeria graduated from ADF in 2015, entered the accelerated transition phase of Gavi in 2017 and is projected to stop receiving Gavi and International Development Association (IDA) funding by 2022. More than 80% of these flows come from a few institutions – IDA, Global Fund, USAID, DfID, and Gavi. This means the graduation policies of a few institutions will have a significant impact on Nigeria’s aid flows.

Nigeria’s top 3 bilateral donors – USA, France and the UK – make up more than 80% of total bilateral aid in-flows. Recent political trends in these countries, and more nationalist leaning policies will impact aid flows. The US is already due to scale back its aid according to the 2018 budget proposed by President Trump. DfID current five year plan (through 2020) has this current plan as the last “full” one for Nigeria,” Gujadhur added.

He warned that since Nigeria has crossed the eligibility threshold for both IDA and GAVI which combined amounted to about $1.1bn, 34% total 2015 ODA flows, crossing the eligibility threshold would raise high expectation of Nigeria to graduate from these sources of funding soon. “Nigeria will lose the equivalent of 10% of 2016 FGN revenue.”

Gujadhur argued that though on an aggregate level Nigeria is not as dependent on aid, however, on sectoral level, Nigeria is more dependent on aid, given the significant concentration of aid flows across health, population policies, education and agriculture. “This means that the impact of transition will be felt more in these specific sectors if not so much at the aggregate level. Transition preparation would therefore require a more targeted approach.

An uncoordinated aid transition will impact Nigeria’s primary health care and the government would be unable to achieve the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP)’s goal of revitalizing primary health care in Nigeria. Some sub-sectors, like vaccines and family planning, are at particular risk without proper planning,” he cautioned.

The ERGP in the analysis of Ministry of Budget and National Planning, articulates Nigeria’s vision for the country for the period 2017-2020, and lays the foundation for long-term growth, primarily to optimise local content and empower local businesses. The plan stipulates the role of government in facilitating, enabling and supporting the economic activities of businesses. It articulates the strategy for aligning fiscal, monetary and trade policies. The plan outlines relevant policy instruments to promote import substitution and export promotion.

Similarly in agriculture, Gujadhur observed that between 2012 and 2015 ODA inflows averaged 75% of FGN budget to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development and even surpassed Ag budget in 2014. He said an uncoordinated transition could impact the economy especially given that agriculture has been a strong driver of the economy as the only sector that grew in 2016 in spite of the recession.

Discussing the potential opportunities for domestic resources mobilisation, he stated that Nigeria’s revenue as % of GDP is lowest in world. “Numbers are even worse for 2016 – now below 6%”.

As part of the immediate measures, Gujadhur advised that apart from Fiscal Strategy Paper and fiscal space which must be connected to realistic short and medium terms targets, 2018 budget should be center of Nigeria’s development strategy with Economic Recovery and Growth Plan as basic to put medium term plan together.

On short term basis, he acknowledged the an inter-ministerial team set up by the Honourable Minister for Budget and National Planning to work on transition strategy, but according to him adequate support from the National Assembly and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies remains critical to the success of such process.

As medium term measures, Gujadhur recommended increased non-oil revenues “from very low base” with continual government’s efforts on the tax administration through appropriate legislative driven tax policy.

Prof. Ode Ojowu, a renowned economist also the lead discussant added that the GDP growth reduces ODA flows, and “may not necessarily buffer the shock to specific sectors of ODA intervention like Health and Population”.

He called for more efficient, transparent and accountable budgetary process to provide a cushion to the reduced flow of ODA. “We note that in assessing the impact of development assistance, we should not lose sight of the fact that a reasonable percentage of the funds returns to donor country by way of expatriate consultants and procurement of goods,” Prof. Ojowu noted.

The renowned economist recommended the need for ODA Policy in Nigeria to provide a portal where the activities, funds and location of donors could be accessed and practically collate for effective utilization as donors are guided by their respective country laws, rules, regulations and politics.

“In 2005, the National Planning Commission produced a draft ODA policy for Nigeria, but it did not sail through. The immediate objective of that policy was Nigeria still needs the ODA policy. In the interim, given the co-funding relationship, government can negotiate with development partners to focus their resources in a defined area of priority rather than spreading thinly across sectors,” he explained.

As part of the exit strategy, Prof. Ojowu recommended: domestication of ODA funded activities with significant reduction in major costs such as freight, insurance and other port handling charges; greater cooperation between the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Ministry of Finance and the benefitting Ministries and Agencies to promote joint ownership of the intervention projects and minimize the sectoral impact of declines in ODA flows; an appropriate population policy; a framework for states to compete for federal government grants and donor support; proactive multi-tier budgeting for greater coordination, efficient budgeting and improved outcomes in place of the focus on federal budgetary allocations.

In order to increase revenues from incomes, he further suggested institutionalized revenue and expenditure tracking; strengthen institutions to fight corruption; adoption of international best practices in tax legislation and administration; comprehensive data to track compliance to Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme; established centralized database that harmonizes the extant databases, covering international passport, bank verification number (BVN), driver’s license, permanent voter’s card, mobile network sim registration, national identity card.

Examining Nigeria’s financing flows and efficiency for mobilizing domestic resources for sustainable social sector investment, a don at Department of Economics, University of Ibadan, Prof. Abiodun O. Folawewo, observed that total government generated revenue at all levels of government has been grossly inadequate to finance the administrative, socio-economic and developmental responsibilities.

He said: “At the federal level, externally driven revenues (oil-revenue) have dwarfed domestic domestically (non-oil) sourced. At state and local government levels internally generated revenues (IGR) usually fall below accruals from federal allocation accounts.”

He identified available sources of local funding for developmental projects and social sector investment to include: constitutional provisions in terms of taxes, levies and others rates; investment opportunities; and borrowings from local financial market.

The existing gaps in domestic resource mobilisation according to him include inefficiency in tax regime; weak capacity of revenue collection agencies; lack of innovation for resource mobilization; inadequate utilization of current tax law provision; and corruption and revenue leakages/losses.

The university don recommended as ways forward: training and re-training of revenue collection personnel at all government levels; continuation of the current restructuring of revenue and expenditure system of government; innovation in terms of exploring hitherto existing untapped aspect of constitutional provisions; removal of all administrative bottlenecks to the levying and collection of taxes, especially at state and local government levels; motivating and incentivising of citizenry for payment of taxes; mainstreaming of the large the informal sector; public-private partnership; and enactment of law on minimum budget benchmark for social sector funding.

Good Governance and Peaceful Co-existence in Nigeria

By Abubakar Jimoh

With Nigeria’s rich ethno-religious and linguistic diversity, good governance remains essential to ensure minority rights, equality and peaceful coexistence for all citizens to survive and thrive.

While governance is referred to as a process by which decisions are made and implemented or not implemented—in case of bad governance, good governance is the main driving force behind a healthy, secured and prosperous nation.

Given this backdrop, governance cannot be described as good without some fundamental features like participatory, consensus building, transparency, accountability, efficiency, effectiveness, equity, inclusiveness, and rule of law.

Participatory

As credible and sustainable governance depends largely on effective citizens’ participation and on what it delivers, the quality of governance diminishes if citizens are ignorant about plans, programmes and policies of the governments.

Involving citizens in governance process helps ordinary citizens to assess their own needs and participate in and monitor governments’ plans and programmes.

It is evident across the globe that citizens’ participation can help governments to be more accountable and responsive, improve the people’s perception of governmental performance and democratic dividend the citizens receive from the governments.

Effective citizens’ participation is guaranteed when they understand and want to exercise their rights to participate in local political issues as legally protected under Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, which states: “(1) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice. (2)(a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority…        (c) the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”

The citizens’ civil and political rights include freedom of expression and access to information, which are at the basis of political participation as guaranteed and highlighted under relevant provisions of Freedom of Information Act, 2011, which provides for citizens’ access to public records and information, protect public records and information to the extent consistent with the public interest; and  African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which mandates all African countries including Nigeria to uphold the supremacy of their constitutions and promote participatory democracy by encouraging culture of popular participation and protect fundamental people’s rights.

Apart from this, through their local institutions, governments can facilitate the citizens’ participation to ensure they feel confident and know where and how to participate.

In this case, strengthening one-to-one and one-to-many constructive communications between individual legislators and their constituents are important elements of participatory governance; as direct communication between them helps legislators to make appropriate decisions about legislation and public policy issues, and provide enabling platform for the expression of public views and opinions. Solidified linkages between the two promote peace and stability in a democratic system. These linkages in the analysis of Nikhil Dutta et al are a two-way phenomenon—top-down and bottom-up communications. That is, legislators represent the people`s interests, while simultaneously providing feedback and information to their constituents on the political processes.

E-governance has been adopted in most parts of the world to transform citizen service, provide access to information to empower citizens, enable their participation in government and enhance citizen’s economic and social opportunities. The features of E-Governance highlighted by Crowley M, a researcher at Center for Public Policy & Administration University of Utah, includes the ability for citizens to leave feedback to various government offices; a subscription based list serve or e-Newsletter that keeps citizens and other agencies informed; Online discussion forums or chat rooms to discuss policy issues; e-Meetings for cross agency/cross governmental participation; Online citizen surveys or polls for specific issues with published results; Online citizen satisfaction surveys with published results; Online decision-making – e-petitions, e-referenda; Online performance measures with published results.

Consequently, E-Governance has become an enabling involving the use of Information Technology in improving transparency, providing information speedily to all citizens, improving administration efficiency and improving public services such as transportation, power, health, water, security and municipal services. Local governments in this case, can take responsibility in developing integrated rural-based, citizencentric, information-driven, user-friendly, easily-accessible, and dynamic e-governance system.

When citizens feel that their views are represented in government and their representatives bear constituents` interests in mind, they are encouraged to participate in governance process. Through this process, citizens’ participation in governance will improve accountability and the ability of local authorities to solve problems, creates more inclusive and cohesive communities, and increases the number and quality of initiatives made by communities.

Efficient and effective service delivery

A peaceful and productive society is achieved through effective and efficient service delivery by the state institutions. Good governance in this case, according to GIZ means “effective and efficient structures which provide optimal support to citizens in leading a safe and productive life in line with their desires and opportunities”.

We cannot say good governance is in place in presence of continued diversion of resources reduces the level of resources and investments available for the public health system. Resources are reportedly drained from health budget through embezzlement, fraud and corruption reduce the funding available for salaries, health services and maintenance, contributing to lower staff motivation, quality of care and declining service availability and use.

As observes by the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), corruption impedes effective and efficient public health care service delivery, and this practically symbolises: unethical attitudes of the health workers towards helpless patients, discouraging attendance at public health care facilities; scarcity of drugs even when they are provided by governments but patients are directed to private hospital or stores to purchase such at expensive sums;  poor access to health care facilities, intensifying the already increasing maternal and child mortality rate, especially in the grassroots; poor monitoring and evaluation of the health facilities by relevant authorities, giving chances to degrading treatments and unethical attitudes by some health workers; delayed release of health budget as appropriated, backpedalling timely interventions and provision of adequate, accessible and affordable health care services; poor implementation of health budget even when released.

We cannot think of good governance in the presence of endemic mismanagement of educational funds. This triggered a lamentation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that corruption has weakened the sector, leading to low efficiency, wastage and misappropriation of resources, low quality service delivery. The Commission classified the ills into different levels of occurrence such as policy, Ministry/state and local government, schools and administrative levels. Corrupt practices in the education sector are extensively endangering the country’s social, economic and political future.

Of course, good governance cannot be arguably in place with the unquantifiable and unforgivable inefficient and poor service delivery by our nation’s security services, with their continued and unchecked sabotage of the nation’s socio-economic development and well-being of the citizens through institutionalised human rights abuses and systemic bribery, which gives chance to hopelessness, insecurity and degrading treatments of the less privileged; sexual assault, extra-judicial killings and shooting of citizens for refusing to bribe; high-level embezzlement and diversion of security personnel entitlements into private pockets, limiting resources, efforts and motivation to effectively secure lives and property of the citizens; and the porous nation’s borders, which paves ways for influx illegal immigrants, illegal importation of weapons of various kinds that further endanger lives of the citizens.

Transparency and Accountability

Having a transparent and accountable system helps the governments in adapting to social and technological changes, stay close and respond to citizens demands. Through transparent system, a legislature provides more information and expands citizen participation in a deliberate and meaningful way that makes it more effective in delivering democratic dividend to the electorate. Every citizen regardless of his or her social, political, economic, education and ethno-religion background should have access to public information, which should be made available by the concerned public institution.

Transparency and accountability are increasingly recognized for their crucial role in making legislative and policy information more accessible to citizens, strengthening the capacity of citizens to participate in legislative and policy processes to advocate for greater access to government, improved accountability, and increased collaborative dialogue on issues bothering public reform.

How can we talk of transparency and accountability in governance when budget processes or information are not public accessible for citizens’ participation scrutiny, contributions, monitoring and evaluation in most states across the country? We cannot talk of transparency and accountability when federal allocation and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) are diverted and used for unknown purposes. We cannot talk about transparency and accountability in presence secrecies and lop-sidedness in tax collection, administration and utilisation, breeding illegal and multiple taxation.

Lack of accountability could be practically buttressed where maternal delivery services are practically carried out based on unaddressed ‘queue-and-swamp’ system in the health facilities; when unavailable but avertable drugs and other essential commodities, and poor access to health care facilities intensify the increasingly maternal and child mortality rate, especially in the grassroots.

Equity and inclusiveness

Women constitute over 50 percent of the world’s population; perform two-third of the world’s work, yet receive one-tenth of the world’s income; represent a staggering 70 percent of the world’s one billion poorest people.

In the analysis of the Executive Director, Centre LSD, Otive Igbuzor, in developing countries, women own less than two percent of all land. At least 60 million girls are missing due to female infanticide or sex selective abortion and an estimated 5,000 women murdered each year in “honour” killings. He observes unequal distribution of food and health care including 93 million children who are not enrolled in school are girls.

In eight Northern States, over 80% of women are unable to read (compared with 54% for men), as reported by UK Department for International Development (DFID) in 2012; owing to some traceable factors such as lack of funds, existing traditional and religious inclination, non-provision of educational facilities by government, poor funding of the educational sector, weak educational policies, early marriage, early childbirth, poor sanitation and ignorance.

Nigeria has the highest population in African continent with 38 percent of its women lacking formal education as against 25 percent for men and only four percent of women have higher education against the seven percent of their male counterpart.

Consequently, in Nigeria, majority of girls and women face real-time poverty, gross inequality, molestation and injustice, denying them effort to acquire meaningful skills and contribute positively towards the nation’s development.  Series of discrimination and atrocities against women include poor education, poor nutrition, violence and brutalization, vulnerability and low pay employment.

Since democratic rule in 1999, women are under-represented in all key political decision making bodies in Nigeria. During the 2007 elections, women constituted about 11% of all candidates with only one woman contesting for the office of the President; 33.9% for governorship positions; 13.5% for Senate, 15.6% for House of Representatives, and 15.8% for Houses of Assembly. Following the elections, women occupied only about 7.5 percent of key leadership positions in Nigeria.

During the 2007 general elections, the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s administration promised 30 percent of political appointment to women, a year after the elections, only 11 percent was allocated to women.

Official records released by the Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC) shows that a total of 809 women emerged as candidates for the 2011 elections on the platforms of various political parties. This represents a 17% increase over 692 women who emerged as candidates during the 2007 elections. But when the results was released, women’s representation at national level regressed slightly from 7.5% in 2007 to 7.1% in 2011. In the 2015 elections, the number further decreased to 7 in Senate (6.4 percent) and 19 in House of Representatives (5.2 percent).

During President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, women occupied 33 percent of cabinet positions. This was later decreased to 19 percent in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

In Nigeria, every 10 minutes one woman dies from conditions associated with childbirth; and only 39% births take place with assistance of medically trained personnel, coupled with the scarcity of skilled attendants, absence of personnel among other factors impede the effectiveness of health services in the country.

Nigeria records one of the lowest rates of female entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa; with majority of women concentrating in casual, low-skilled, low paid informal sector employment.

Women are important in our society; and every woman has a role to play. Without meaning to sound like a broken record, I will like to remind us that women owing to their nurturing nature make good managers.

More importantly, a healthy society doesn’t automatically emerge and stand firm without the balance of that pivotal role played by women. Indeed, from behavioral to health education, it is a woman who teaches how to behave, how to speak and how to deal with different classes of people. Consequently, women remain fundamentals of a good society and essential contributors in the nation’s building.

Similarly, it is often said that the basic unit of society is a family; one cannot overemphasize the importance of women in the family. As women make a family, a family makes a home and homes make a society. Thus, there would be no society without the contribution of women.

Although women have great responsibilities in upbringing of a healthy, solid society, but records the lowest rates of political participation in the country. She plays roles as a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife.

While imposition of tax remains a vital instrument for the promotion of resource re-allocation, social equity through wealth distribution, women marginalisation in tax processes and responsibilities of government towards its citizens has hitherto constituted public and policy debates, but with little effort to address the emergent plights of women under unwary tax regime.

With increasing incidence of taxation in the contemporary tax reforms, Nigerian women are worst hit by the socio-economic burden of the various gender-insensitive tax policies.

It would be recalled that in September 2015, Nigeria joined the rest of the world at United Nations’ High Level Plenary Summit for the adoption of Structural Development Goals (SDGs) with 17 goals and 169 targets as part of the global efforts to build a comprehensive development plan in order to complete the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs).

Adopting the SDGs, at country level with Goal 1 and 5 promising to: end poverty and hunger in all its forms everywhere; and achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, respectfully, Nigeria is committed to address poverty and ensure equal opportunity for women in all socio-economic and political ramifications. However, the existing gender-biased tax regime remains a major impediment that if not strictly addressed may backpedal or obstruct the country’s success in the implementation of SDGs.

Also, the imbalanced Value Added Tax (VAT) system is another endemic challenge to the women’s earning and well-being. The VAT Amendment Act 2007 removed the 5 percent fixed rate and gave the Minister of Finance Power to determine the VAT rate. Exercising the authority, the Minister of Finance raised the rate to 10 percent, but later repealed its decision with the rate returned to the initial 5 percent. Nigerian women are known to purchase more goods and services that promote health, education and nutrition compared to men.

In 2004, the Nigeria Living Standards Survey report by the National Bureau of Statistics showed that over 50% of the expenditure by female headed households was on non-food items which as likely to attract VAT. This in the observations of GTZ creates the potential for women to bear a larger burden of VAT, especially if the VAT system does not provide for exemptions, reduce rates or zero-rating.

Good governance cannot be in place when women are maginalised in all ramifications with a high percentage of girls out of schools. Appreciable efforts must be made by governments at all levels to recognise girls and women as equal players in the game of life whilst empowering, up-skilling and investing in them for a better world.

Full-fledged implementation of 35% Affirmative Action for Women by governments at all levels is paramount to encourage full participation of women as leaders and decision-makers in households, communities, and in the public and private spheres.

A god governance system improves access to education and eliminating gender gaps in education, proper individual orientation, mass public awareness and sensitization on the provisions of the Rights of Women.

Rule of law

In every governance system, the guiding principles of rule of law must be upheld and respected since it’s the foundation of good governance. In Nigeria with a contrary experience, the basic principles are violated through carelessness and recklessness conducts.

As former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal puts it, “the principle of rule of law is, like other attributes of liberal democracy such as accountability, transparency, and human rights promotion and protection, essential element of democracy without which the process, dynamics and success of a democratic system is likely to be endangered, some would say, bereft of its inherent value and sanctity.”

According to him, without the rule of law democracy is impracticable as arbitrariness is likely to hold sway and torpedo the process of realizing good governance. “The rule of law encompasses all it takes to uphold, promote and safeguard the supremacy of law over any proclivities of institutions, groups or individuals. It is a term which is essentially instrumental to the nurturing of a virile democratic culture and democratic consolidation,” he added.

In order to uphold the principles of rule of law, an effective judicial system must be guaranteed to promote equality and fairness in legal processes. The judiciary has a great role to play in the efforts to save the nation from imminent collapse under the weight of unbridled corruption. Without doubt, judges symbolize the judicial powers of the state; they stand out as the central figures in the judicial system and the administration of justice.

Good governance is not attained through intentional creation of backlog of cases to pave ways for demanding bribes to fast-track a case; endless abuse of offices and distortion of judicial processes; judges who are on politicians’ pay roll, even when such is against judicial code of ethics; high-ranking judicial officers who serve as couriers of bribe.

Consensus building and responsiveness

Adopting strategies for consensus building in Nigeria through such holistic techniques as bringing diverse groups of stakeholders together to engage in shared learning and decision making on legislative and policy issues has become imperative to enhance collaboration, peaceful co-existence and encourage public participation in governance.

Consensus cannot be built on a failure to separate party politics from state, which in the observations of Commonwealth Network is extremely damaging, “making important public institutions such as the military, judiciary, election commission and state media hostage to the incumbent”.

It is important that governments provide for credible and independent institutions and adequate political space for an effective opposition and diverse groups. At the same time opposition parties must respect the rule of law and engage in a meaningful and constructive manner in the political process.

Consensus building process must be sincere and transparent to restore confidence in and represent interest of oppositions or diverse groups. Through this process, outcomes of dialogues or meeting will be acceptable and respected by all parties.

In order to uphold the principle of good governance, governments must be aware of what the citizens want and citizens must as well be aware of what governments are going.  Governments must be responsive and responsible towards citizens’ demands and expectations by maintaining integrity, transparency, and accountability. In Nigerian context, to be responsive and responsible, government have the primary responsibility to effectively relate and interact with the citizens.

2017 Appropriation Bill: Between National Assembly and Civil Society

By Abubakar Jimoh

It is no more news that the Nigeria’s budgetary process has hitherto been faced with inherent systemic secrecy, resulting in inadequate allocation to the social sector of the economy and grossly neglect of citizens’ democratic expectations.

Appreciating the fact that effective participation and contribution of citizens in the budgetary process remain paramount to achieving proper monitoring, transparency and accountability in the appropriation, release and utilisation of funds, the National Assembly in collaboration with Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), UK Department for International Development (UKAID) and Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) recently organised a first ever 3-day Public Hearing on 2017 Appropriation Bill.

The Public Hearing, which for the first time brought under one roof all stakeholders involved in the budget process, provided an enabling platform for public analysis, discourse and enlightenment on the basic recommendations and budget policies of the nation as contained in the 2017 Budget Proposal by the President Muhammadu Buhari; and the fiscal, financial and economic assumptions used as basis in arriving at total estimated expenditure and receipts.

In his opening remark, the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, did not conceal the importance of citizens’ participation and contribution in the budget process when he noted that public budget, “if well-crafted and implemented, remains the most potent fiscal policy instrument of government in delivering socio-economic benefits in an all-inclusive manner; and, the best way to achieve this is to ensure that all stakeholders are made a part of the decision-making process especially as it relates to the provision of public services and distribution of social benefits”.

The Senate President continued: “It is therefore, in line with this belief that the 8th National Assembly deemed it necessary to bring Government, Civil Society Organisations, Private Sector, and other key actors in the economy to deliberate on the Budget proposal. Through this engagement, and others to come, we hope to increase the efficiency of government and its responsiveness to citizens needs as well as improve overall transparency and accountability in governance.”

He said the 2017 Budget Proposal of N7.298 trillion submitted to the Assembly was designed based on a medium-term recovery and growth plan and planned expenditures would be objectively reviewed, as related to their feasibility and relevance in delivering the broad objectives of the budget—to pull the economy out of recession; invest in the people of Nigeria; and lay the foundations for a diversified, sustainable and inclusive growth.

In order to enhance the aforementioned objectives of the budget, Sen. Saraki added that the Assembly under his leadership will continue to focus on priority legislation that will loosen the structural bottlenecks impeding the ease-of-doing business in the country. The priority legislation in his words will include: National Transport Commission Bill; National Road Fund Bill; National Road Authority Bill; National Inland Waterways Bill; Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Bill; Infrastructure Development Commission Bill, Petroleum Institution and Governance Bill; Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Bill will unstiffen the investment climate in critical sectors of the economy.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara explained that the Public Hearing was organised in fulfilment of one of the major transparency and accountability goals enshrine in the 8th Assembly’s adopted Legislative Agenda in 2015 with commitment that “[t]he House shall examine the efficacy of conducting public hearings on the Budget before legislative approval as this exposes the National Budget to increased citizen and stakeholder participation”.

He reiterated the explicit power of the Assembly in control over public funds as contains section 80 of the 1999 Constitution, which asserts in principles that all monies received from whatever source by any part of the government are public funds; lays down the principle of Appropriations Control; and prohibits expenditure of any public money without legislative authorization.

The Speaker encouraged the stakeholders to effectively utilise the opportunity offered by the legislature to interrogate the budget document and ensure that the needs and priorities of the people hold sway. “Stakeholders in their various fields of expertise and active players in all aspects of the economy are invited to make their inputs and assist the National Assembly in passing a truly peoples’ budget that will set us on the path to sustainable economic recovery,” he urged.

Hon. Dogara further noted that being an advocate for transparency and accountability in budgetary process largely informed his famous position that “[s]ubjecting the annual budget to public scrutiny at National Assembly will give stakeholders opportunity to make their inputs and challenge incorrect assumptions in the Budget. This process will involve the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other professional bodies. The National Assembly will benefit from the research skills of various CSOs and the technical expertise of professional bodies at the enactment stage of the Appropriations Bill. Many CSOs scrutinise the Budget yearly and usually point out areas of duplications and wastage. We need to institutionalise this mechanism.”

In a memorandum, the Primary Healthcare Revitalisation Support Group represented by its Chair also Wife of the Senate President, Mrs Toyin Saraki, called for implementation of the National Health Act 2014 by setting aside not less than 1 percent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Basic Health Care Provisions Fund.

“The Guidelines for the administration, disbursement and monitoring of the Fund is virtually completed. The 2017 budget should prioritize this, setting aside 49bn as statutory transfer,” she said.

The Chair urged the Assembly to back the provision for the revitalization of 1 Primary Health Centre per ward (10,000) with the right budget, noting that N3bn for 1000 PHCs in 2017 would lay a good foundation for an ambition that ends in 2019.

Mrs Saraki noted: “Although Primary Health Care is not the primary responsibility of the Federal Government, it should provide resources in form of grants to States and LGAs given that over 70% of disease burden in the country lies at the primary level. Specifically, given that rehabilitation of just 1,000 out of about 10,000 PHCs in the Country is largely insignificant.

“The Federal Government should provide for additional N6b in the 2017 budget to enable her rehabilitate at least 3,000 out of about 10,000 PHCs in the Country ear marked for rehabilitation. Funding options for this could include: additional funding from the PROPOSED INCREASE IN OIL BENCHMARK PRICE in the 2017 budget; and deduction from source of money from the next round of Paris Club Refund to States to enable them budget for the rehabilitation of some PHCs in 2017, 2018 and 2019.”

The Chair further warned on the severe impacts of shortfall in the immunization funding urging sustainable strategic plan and adequate budgetary allocation to ensure a biennial funding mechanism for routine vaccines is made in 2017. “While funding for 2017 is largely taken care of (but for a funding gap of N1.5bn), the provision for 2018 was ignored, which could create procurement challenges to meet immunization needs for Nigerian children in 2018. FGN should put in place the policy and legal framework for sustainable immunization financing and develop a transition plan to address the accelerated loss of GAVI support in the next 5 years,” she advised.

In a presentation to the Assembly, the Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) Dr. Otive Igbuzor, lamented lack of participatory budgetary process, where citizens and communities do not participate in formulating policies and agreeing on projects that go into the budget.

He noted: “The budgetary process is not open. Corruption in any country starts from the budgetary process. In very corrupt countries, the budget is done in secret. Releases are done without the knowledge of citizens. Procurement information is not made available to citizens and corruption is guarded and protected. This is why civil society organisations in Nigeria have been advocating for an open budget system.  A budget is regarded as open if citizens have access to the key budget documents; have high level of involvement in the budgetary process and have access to procurement information.

“The priorities of the budget are not in accord with the development challenges of the country and there is no synergy between plans, policy and budget. We have always argued that there is the need for better public finance management across the world because of increasing inequality and non-inclusive growth. The past five decades have witnessed monumental changes in the world. Global economic wealth has increased sevenfold and average incomes have tripled.  Yet, poverty has increased to record high levels. The major problem is that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few people while majority of the people live in abject poverty.”

The Executive Director continued: “There are several frivolous expenditures in the budget that will not stand any reasoning and logic. For instance, the Centre for Social Justice documented N668.8 billion frivolous expenditure in the 2016 budget. They include N3.91 billion allocated annual reporting maintenance of villa facilities; N322.4 million for linking of cable to drivers’ rest room at the villa; N213.8 million for linking of cable from guest house to generator house etc.

“The institutions and mechanisms for oversight of the budgetary process are weak. In any modern democracy, the legislature, civil society and media are expected to play oversight functions in addition to the internal control system put in place by the executive.  There is also the need for synergy and co-ordination between the Executive and NASS in budget preparations.”

Commenting on main issues in the 2017 Budget Proposal, he bemoaned low budgetary allocation to sectors that will have impact on the lives of citizens such as agriculture, 1.69%; health, 4.17%; education, 4.17%.

The Centre LSD’s boss observed that frivolous expenditure has continued over the years. Examples are foodstuff and cateral materials had a budget of N92.6 million in 2016 and N123.2 million in 2017; newspapers had a budget of N10.2 million in 2016 and N28.3 million in 2017 (This translates to 387 newspapers per day at N200 per newspaper for 365 days).

Dr. Igbuzor, however, commended the special initiatives in the proposed budget with social inclusion benefits including provision of N100 billion for a new social housing programme; N50billion for each geopolitical zone to set up special economic zone; N20billion to revive export-expansion grant; N15billion to recapitalise Bank of Industry (BOI) and Bank of Agriculture (BoA) and N500billion special intervention programme.

Compared to the past, there are some positive improvements in the 2017 budget. There is a slight improvement in capital budgetary allocation although the change is not big enough. There are some progressive initiatives in line with the ideological commitment to social democracy including social protection initiatives and social housing.

In another presentation to the Assembly, the Executive Director, Centre for Social Justice, Barr. Eze Onyepere, explained that though the National Health Act 2014 provides for 1% of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to be appropriated as a statutory transfer to the Basic Health Care Provisions Fund, the missing Basic Health Care Provision Fund since the introduction of the Act remains a major challenge.

“For the past two years, the executive and legislature have ignored this provision and this has continued in the 2017 estimates.”

The Executive Director observed the frivolities, inappropriate, unclear and wasteful expenditure when he questioned the repetitive demand for computers and software, vehicles, furnishing of offices, which should not have space in a budget to get Nigeria out of recession.

“Voting money in an unclear way that does not tell the story of what exactly the vote is for is not a best practice. Agriculture for instance votes lump sums running into billions for value chains of maize, potato, cassava, etc. The meaning of this is only known to the person who crafted the budget. Voting N237.9 million for subscription to professional bodies under the SGF’s office raises the poser of how many staff works in the office. These estimates should be removed from the budget and the sums saved should be reprogrammed to capital expenditure,” he requested.

Barr. Onyepere recommended that the budget’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) should be anchored on high level national policies and planning frameworks such as Vision 20:2020 and its implementation plans. “With the expiry of Vision 20:2020’s First National Implementation Plan 2010-2013, and the absence of a follow up implementation plan which should have been the NIP 2014-2017, the budget seems to rests on nothing. However, there is a reference to the Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) which for all intents and purposes is not a policy or plan stricto sensu to qualify as the anchor of the budget,” he added.

Speaking from the perspective of youth development, the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth, and Advancement (YIAGA) noted that the Ministry of Youth Development have over the years been constrained in actually delivering its mandate of formulating, monitoring and review of the National Youth Policy; articulating relevant programs of action for youth development; coordinating youth and monitor youth development activities at the three levels of government an collaborating partners; collaborating with all stakeholders for the funding of youth activities; creating opportunities for the youth to be involved in decision making process in matters that affect them, the environment and the society; and inculcating in the youth human rights values, social justice, equity, fairness and gender equality.

YIAGA observed over-concentration on National Youth Service Corps, resulting in poor budgeting for youth development. “Interestingly, the budget for the Ministry of Youth in four (4) consecutive years from 2014 to 2017 proposed budget reveals that the in each fiscal year, the larger percentage of the budget for the Ministry is gulped by the national Youth Service Corps which is an agency under the oversight of the Ministry at an average of  91%.

“An estimated 250,000 Nigerian youths participate in the NYSC program every year – compared to the Nigerian youths, between the ages of 18 – 35, as defined in Nigeria’s National Youth Policy and the African Youth Charter who constitute approximately 70% of Nigeria’s 180 million population – there is an urgent need to increase budgetary allocations for youth development,” it explained.

Similarly, a memorandum presented by the National Youth Council of Nigeria noted lack of coordination and synergy in the budgetary implementation for youth development, as majority of Ministries Departments and Agencies implement programmes on Youth Development without the involvement of Federal Ministry of Youth Development, thus making effective monitoring, evaluation, and adequate record keeping difficult

The Executive Secretary, Legislative Watch, Hon. Ngozika Ihuoma, in his submission said the proposed budget could not be acknowledged as a true reflection of the Federal Government accruals from the Consolidated Revenue Fund as it failed to address the leakages contained in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, when over N4trillion budget of Corporations, Agencies and Government-owned Companies which got zero allocation in 2016 following failure to capture them in the 2016 Appropriation Act or laid as Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2016 and payable from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Government in line with Section 81(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

The Executive Secretary advised the Assembly as custodian of the 1999 Constitution to ensure the States and Local Government Councils get their fair share as provided by the Constitution.

The Nigerian Medical Association in its submission urged the legislature to declare a state of emergency in the health sector in view of the on-going disastrous nature of the health care delivery environment.

“This should not only be verbalized in the usual way, but backed with appropriate budget line. Health is security. Health is development. Health is wealth’. Thus Nigeria should work to own its health rather than abandoning it to development partners whose priorities may not be in line with our national interest,” it warned.

The Association encourage Nigeria to avoid over-reliance on donor agencies with critical consideration for alternative and independent sources of funding health sector in the face of declining donor funding, adding that the nation can afford to allocate 15% of her national budget to health as contained in the Abuja Declaration of 2001.

2017: National Assembly and the Pending Priority Issues

By Abubakar Jimoh

As the National Assembly resumes legislative activities for the New Year, it becomes paramount to draw attention of the legislators to pending and important issues that will shape the nation’s socio-economic development such as Petroleum Industry and Governance Bill, openness and transparency in the 2017 Appropriation Bill, Constitutional and Electoral Reforms, constituency accountability, sustainable security, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and Open Government Partnership.

Petroleum Industry Governance and Institutional Framework Bill 2015

The hostile nature of the existing law governing the oil and gas sector in the country led to reforms that culminated in preparation of Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in 2008. The non-passage of the Bill about a decade after was due to many identified factors.

Meanwhile, the presentation of Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) 2016 on the floor of the Senate on 13th April, 2016 presented new opportunities for the Bill to be passed. It is different from previous versions of the PIB in many ways.

If passed into law, the new Bill will provide appropriate legal and regulatory framework particularly important for optimal performance of the oil and gas sector. It will pave way for efficient and effective governing institutions with clear and separate roles for the petroleum industry; establish a framework for the creation of commercially oriented and profit driven petroleum entities that ensures value addition and internationalization of the petroleum industry; promote transparency and accountability in the administration of the petroleum resources of Nigeria; and foster a conducive business environment for petroleum industry operations.

The Bill will ensure competitive, open, non-discretionary licensing and tender processes; promote independent regulator insulated from political interference; eliminate discretionary powers to the President and Minister of Petroleum; establish Petroleum Host Community Fund to be used for the development of economic and social infrastructure of the communities within the oil producing areas; address the lingering challenge of gas flaring, environmental protection, remediation and restoration.

In December 2016, the Bill was subjected to a Public Hearing in which the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and her partners actively participated. To achieve transparency, accountability and significant growth in the oil and gas sector, the legislators must fast-track passage of the Bill.

2017 Appropriation Bill

Encouraging thorough, open, and constructive process in the passage of the 2017 Appropriation Bill is essential to win citizens’ confidence in the legislators. Legislative openness in the Appropriation process entails transparent, inclusive and participatory process to reflect the needs and aspirations of Nigerians.

Legislative openness strengthens relationship between the people and the legislature and provides a means for the people to participate in the legislative activities. Legislative authority is exercised and upheld by legitimacy. The legitimacy is guaranteed by strong trust reposed on the legislature by the people. Strong trust in this case, cannot be achieved without adequate democratic process to allow for effective participation by citizens at all levels.

Legislative openness is increasingly recognized for its crucial role in making appropriation information more accessible to citizens, strengthening the capacity of citizens to participate in the process, improving legislative accountability, and increasing collaborative dialogue among the legislators on issues affecting Appropriation Bill.

It is evident across the globe that citizens’ participation in budgetary process can help governments to be more accountable and responsive, improve the people’s perception of budgetary performance and democratic dividend.

While endemic socio-economic problems as well as poor budgetary and economic policies implementation result in wasteful spending, misplaced priority and mismanagement of capital projects in various parts of the country, citizens’ participation in the appropriation process allows for effective monitoring of budget implementation, encourages accountability of public funds, and ameliorates mismanagement.

Observing the impacts of citizens’ participation in budgetary process, Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) in United States, has noted that the process allows the citizens to directly decide how to spend part of a public budget, and enables taxpayers to work with government to make the budget decisions that affect their lives. The process which was first introduced in Brazil in 1989 has been adopted by over 1,500 cities across world. This has helped Brazil in decentralization and participatory budgeting, leading to appreciable shift in more resources to the grassroots, and increased local revenue.

In a study titled ‘Our money, Our responsibility: A Citizens’ Guide to Monitoring Government Expenditures’, Vivek Ramkumar observes that if a government makes an honest effort to implement the budget as it is appropriated, important questions often remain about the specifics of spending. In this case, by engaging with the budget throughout its appropriation and implementation, civil society can identify lapses and make appropriate advocacy interventions.

In a trend towards participatory budget process, the legislators must activate the existing commitments for allowing citizens input into the appropriation process so that it can reflects their aspirations. They must ensure the budget process and passage is timely, devoid of scandals and undue distractions. The legislators should ensure that through the appropriation process and related legislation, commitment to addressing the recession is clearly demonstrated.

More importantly, to ensure openness, citizens’ participation must be encouraged through physical access to the legislature. All citizens irrespective of their social, economic, political and ethno-religion backgrounds should be allowed access to the legislature.

Constitutional and Electoral Reforms

Electoral process in Nigeria is knowingly characterized by violence of various kinds, which manifest in killings, maiming of lives, and destruction property worth millions of naira. It is on this note that both local and international empirical investigations contend that electoral violence presents greatest obstacle to democratic consolidation in Nigeria. The recurrence nature of electoral violence since 1999 has assumed greater magnitude leading to instability in democratic consolidation as well as the loss and displacement of many innocent lives

Several underlining factors such as money politics, ethno-religion sentiments, unguided utterances and hate speeches, rigged elections, irregularities, malpractice, fraud monitoring in electoral processes, extrajudicial killings, among others have been identified to metamorphose into electoral violence.

The reported death before, during and after the elections is worrisome. For instance, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) estimated no fewer than 58 people killed in election-related violence in 22 states from Dec. 3, 2014 to February 13, 2015. Also, Rivers Commission of Inquiry revealed that out of the 97 allegations of killings it received, 94 of them occurred between November 15, 2014, and April 11, 2015. A total of 275 different violations involving killings, injuries to persons or destruction were reported to the Inquiry.

Similarly another report by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) records revealed no fewer than 66 reports of violent incidents targeted at polling, the Commission’s officials, voters and election materials in the 2015 general elections. These were in Rivers State (16), Ondo (8), Cross River and Ebonyi (6 each), Akwa Ibom (5), Bayelsa (4), Lagos and Kaduna (3 each), Jigawa, Enugu, Ekiti and Osun (2 each), Katsina, Plateau, Kogi, Abia, Imo, Kano and Ogun (1 each).

While studies have traced electoral violence to the rascal politics engaged by the political elites, the violence emanates from both intra-party and inter-party settings. Apart from the fact that electoral violence affects the credibility of the electoral system, other essential elements like the democratic system and the rule of law, the nature, extent and magnitude of violence and rigging associated with elections in Nigeria had assumed alarming proportions calling for immediate holistic legal intervention and political will to  stem the tide.

Money politics is another lingering challenge threatening peaceful electoral process and democratic culture in Nigeria. Political financing has become a profitable investment in the country. Despite the limits to campaign donations as stipulated by the Electoral Act, in 2015 general elections, there was no control of electoral spending, as billions of naira were expended on political campaign adverts, luring traditional leaders and political road shows.

The legislators should identify key laws and priority areas for reforms to empower INEC and relevant electoral bodies to deal with perpetrators of serious offences in the electoral process, and ensure a level playing ground for competitive elections and guarantees for all democratic rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution.

Also, the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution should be fast-tracked to address emerging issues affecting Exclusive and Concurrent Legislative Lists for timely growth and development of the country. This will ensure issues related to Immunity Clauses, Devolution of Powers, Local Government Autonomy and financial independence of States Houses of Assembly and Residency Rights and the issues resulting in Statelessness are critically examined and addressed.

It would be recalled that the Assembly, in its legislative agenda, had pledged to deliver on the amendments within the shortest possible time.

Constituency accountability

As democracy’s credibility and sustainability depends, to a large extent, on effective citizens’ participation, and on what it delivers, the quality of democratic politics diminishes if citizens are ignorant about their representatives.

While the concept of legislature legitimacy implies that citizens have some knowledge of their legislative institution and a certain level of support for it, the exercise of democratic control over the legislative system and the policy-making process, in the words of   Baker et. al, cannot occur unless the public has an elementary understanding of the national legislative institution and its membership.

Meanwhile, the workability of democracy, in the analysis of National Democratic Institute (NDI), requires informed and active citizens who understand how to voice their interests, act collectively and hold public officials accountable. Citizens have the responsibility to understand the basis of citizenship, politics and government as well as knowledge to make good policy choices and proper use of authority. It is on this process that citizens can exercise their rights without unreasonable resistance or harassment from authorities or others.

The channel through which citizens access their legislature has been through their elected representatives. In Nigeria, where the electorate is geographically divided into constituencies with members representing a specific locality, such access is expected to be typically facilitated by face-to-face contact or through constituency office.

To strengthen its relation with the constituency, while legislature must be available and accessible to the public, a legislator must report back to the constituents on what is happening in Assembly.  A good legislator must create a functional Constituency Office and maintain constant visit to his or her constituency to establish workable relationship with the constituents for constant consultation and as a feedback mechanism for proper representation. Through Constituency Office, members of the public can approach elected legislators and make constructive input in legislative process as it affect them. The services available at the constituency office must be available equally to all members of the public.

In the words of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a Constituency Office provides a key point of contact for electors with their representative and local staff. In view of its importance, legislators initiate wide-ranging programmes to ensure effective operationalization of their Constituency Offices, where members are available to see their constituents.

Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) finds it paramount that members should experience their constituents’ concerns and problems at first hand, and not just rely on second-hand reports when assessing the impact of legislation.

One-to-one and one-to-many communications between individual legislators and their constituents remain important elements of direct communication between a legislature and the public. Communications between legislators and citizens in the constituencies help lawmakers make appropriate decisions about legislation and public policy issues, and provide enabling platform for the expression of public views and opinions.

The legislators as representatives of the people must strengthen their working relationship with their respective constituencies for constructive information and contributions to inform qualitative and citizens-led legislative process.

Security sector

In recent times, the spate of insecurity in Nigeria arising from bomb blasts, assassinations, kidnappings, communal clashes has become order of the day. It is worrisome that communities are persistently invaded and innocent lives are lost to dreadful attacks launched by individuals or group.

It is no more news in the country that some political and socio-economic saboteurs and other enemies of social integration in most occasions take advantage of the existing instability to fuel precarious attacks on innocent citizens, primarily for their selfish and unpatriotic interest.

The increasing rate of insecurity in some parts of Nigeria is a clear indication that security of lives and property is by far eluding the citizens on a daily bases. It is glaring that the rate of insecurity is rooted from diverse and complex phenomena ranging from socio-economic, political and ethno-cultural disagreements to criminal activities across the country. The situation has exposed the executive, legislative, judiciary, government officials, traditional rulers, their subjects, and family members to all manners of threats.

Encouraging social cohesion among various groups in the country with key interests in national socio-political development is paramount to combat insecurity. Each constituent part of the country should be involved in the national socio-political and economic decisions. This will not only help to install the years of lost confidence in leaderships, but also to achieve national socio-political stability.

Workable efforts must be made to stop violence and proliferation of small arms and ammunitions across the country. This has long contributed to the intensifying rate of insecurity.

Due care and calculated thoughts must be exercised in government’s response to armed violence; since various attempts to tackle conflicts in forceful manner have provoked an escalation of violence generating hefty support for armed groups and strengthening the positions of militants in Nigeria.

The National Assembly should intensify its oversight on security sector to complement and sustain the nation’s recent achievements at combating insecurity and prioritise security as a crucial issue to attain desired political and socio-economic growth and development at all levels.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

The recurring nature of numerous internal conflicts and natural disasters in Nigeria have rendered thousands homeless without means of livelihood to suffer a lot of depravity and other forms of hardship including loss of income from inability to work in places where they are relocated as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across the country.

The vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women and the aged are persistently kept under trees and in uncompleted houses and left uncared for; as against the African Union Internally Displaced Persons Convention, which sets out the obligation of member states (including Nigeria) to protect and assist IDPs in meeting their basic needs.

Lack of legislation to address the plights of over 2million IDPs in the North East and other parts of the country is appalling.

A National Summit organized organized by CISLAC in collaboration with National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs in 2015 to commemorate the World Humanitarian Day on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) freshened critically reflection on the need for adoption and implementation of African Union Convention on Internally Displaced Persons.

The Summit observed and lamented absence of frameworks to provide holistic approach in supporting IDPs’ search for durable solutions, and in preparing for and preventing future displacement. It reiterated the importance of national responsibility to ensuring an effective approach to internal displacement, calling for prompt domestication and implementation of Kampala Convention on IDPs in Nigeria.

In April 2015, a joint assessment by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) identified no fewer than 1,538,982 registered IDPs in the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, Yobe, Plateau, Nasarawa, Abuja (Federal Capital Territory), Kano and Kaduna.

It would be recalled that on 6 December 2012, the African Union (AU) celebrated the entry into force of the AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, also known as the Kampala Convention. The Convention was endorsed in 2009 at an AU Special Summit in Kampala, Uganda and signed by 31 of the 53 member states of the African Union including Nigeria.

The Convention aims to mitigate the causes of displacement, including through establishing early warning systems and taking measures to reduce disaster risks. It also sets out the obligation of states to protect and assist internally displaced persons “by meeting their basic needs as well as allowing and facilitating rapid and unimpeded access by humanitarian organizations and personnel” and to ensure durable solutions.

It establishes that member states that are not in a position to meet the humanitarian needs of IDPs are expected to seek out and facilitate international assistance. The Convention also provides that humanitarian organizations must abide by humanitarian principles, international standards and codes of conduct.

In addition to access to humanitarian assistance, the Convention sets out a comprehensive set of protection issues, such as non-discrimination, freedom of movement and sexual and gender based violence, and obliges States Parties to take measures ensuring the protection of IDPs in these respects.

It has become imperative for the National Assembly to expedite action in the domestication of the Kampala Convention and reviewing the Act setting up the National Commission for Refugees.

Open Government Partnership

The National Assembly should ensure legislation that will facilitate the country’s ability to keep to her commitments to the international community are revisited and addressed. The National Action Plan for the implementation of the Open Government Partnership that seeks to pursue open governance and the Roadmap to implement Beneficial Ownership under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative are clear examples of this.

Nigeria: New Legislative Drive to Revitalize Primary Health Care

By Abubakar Jimoh

  • Health financing system is characterized by low investment by Government – Rt. Hon. Dogara
  • Nigeria does not need to wait for economic development to invest substantially in health – Hon. Okafor
  • PHC is the most acceptable approach to deliver effective, accessible acceptable health care – CISLAC
  • PHC receives little funding with highest disease burden – Religious group
  • Current delivery of care system will continue to fail, except for radical reforms – CSIG
  • Majority of Nigerians live in rural areas where many diseases are prevalent – NSP
  • Healthy population paramount to the development of a thriving economy – Coalition

On 7th and 8th September, 2016, the House of Representatives Committees on Appropriation and Health in partnership Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) organised a two-day Retreat for House of Representatives on financing Primary Health Care in Nigeria. The Retreat which was held in Accra, the capital city of Ghana aimed at providing a platform for relevant Committees in the House of Representatives to discuss and review current challenges and opportunities in financing Primary Health Care in Nigeria.  The retreat drew about 60 participants from House of Representatives, Ministries of Health, Budget and Planning, civil society, and development partners. 

In response to calls and commitments from the Retreat, on 20th October, 2016, the House Chairman Committee on Health Services, Hon. Chike John Okafor, during a plenary session, moved a motion on the “Urgent Need for Revitalization and Adequate Funding of the Primary Health Care System”. The House mandated the Committee to convene a public hearing to identify, harmonize and streamline additional sources of funding from stakeholders and report back to the House within four weeks for further legislative action. It also urged the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in the Primary Healthcare Sector in Nigeria.

It is on this backdrop that the Committee recently organized a two-day Public Hearing to provide interface between the House and relevant stakeholders to identify and proffer innovative, practical and measurable strategies of financing health sector and revitalizing the Primary Health Care in Nigeria for the promotion of the good health and overall wellbeing of the citizens.

Inadequate financing, major impediment to PHC

Speaking at the public hearing, Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara admitted that health care financing remains “one of the greatest problems hindering access to health care services”. “In Nigeria today, the government is using different methods to address public health financing. Unfortunately, the health financing system is still characterized by low investment by Government, extensive out of pocket payments (OOPP), limited insurance funding and low donor funding,” he explained.

The Speaker spoke on the need to revitalize the Primary Health Care centers across the country, as they are the first port of call to majority of Nigerians living in rural areas; and eliminate the barriers to access health care delivery through prepayments and subsequent pooling of funds in preference to direct out of pocket payments.

NASS as a transformation agent

Hon. Okafor noted that the National Assembly has a crucial role to play in catalyzing the transformation of the health sector in Nigeria, stating that Primary Health Care, no doubt, remains the most acceptable approach for achieving a universal health coverage in our healthcare system as over 80% of Nigerians live in the grassroots and Primary Health Care centres are the closest health institutions accessible to them.

He said: “Currently, there are 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) with 9,572 political wards in Nigeria. At least, each of the LGAs has one Primary Health Care Centre that is not fully functional. Most of these PHC centres lack drug supplies, basic health infrastructures, and cannot boast of good number of medical personnel. In fact, patients accessing these PHC centres can hardly afford the cost of transportation or cost of subsidized drugs in these centres due to the economic hardship of most the rural dwellers.

The Committee Chair reiterated the impact of non-functional primary health care in death of 192, 284, 143, 688, 212, 557 people from malaria, diarrhea diseases, and neonatal and maternal disorders in 2015, respectively.

As the attainment of Universal Health Coverage in Nigeria hinges on full functionality of the Primary Health Care system, he said it was imperative that current bottleneck hindering the provision of efficient Primary Health Care in Nigeria were identified and removed in a holistic, inclusive and strategic manner. “A competent skilled and healthy workforce is critical to policy and plan formulation, regulation and service delivery… Consequently, Nigeria does not need to wait for the economy to develop before investing substantially in health and human capital development.

“The national Government must commit to improving minimum health services by committing to a timetable to reach the 15% Abuja Declaration on Health budget target and must immediately implement the National Health Act. This should start by funding the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) with no less than 1% of the Consolidated Revenue Fund – or about 38.6 billion Naira – in 2017 budget. By providing a minimum package of health services to all citizens by creating primary health care facilities, this fund will save thousands of lives.

“Delivering this funding could have a significant impact and put the country on a path to better health once and for all. Evidence suggests that a 10% increase in total health expenditure per capita leads to a 21% decrease in under-5 mortality rates and a 22% decrease in infant mortality rates,”Okafor added.

Poor funding for highest populated PHC

In its submission at the public hearing, Civil Society Integrity Group noted that the current models of coordination and delivery of care in the country will continue to fail the Nigerian people, except systems-based radical reforms and re-organisations of the processes are implemented.  It explained that though with 22% fund provision, Primary Health Care accounts for highest disease burden and highest population coverage. The group urged the Committee to reverse fund allocation to health care to reflect more resources to the Primary Health Care.

Similarly, Knights of St. John International called for reversed funding pyramid in favour of Primary Health Care where the highest burden of diseases lies, and established standards of service quality and regulation of practices.

Lack of political will to implement 1% CRF Provision

The National Immunization Financing Task Team recalled in 2015, a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that about 750, 000 children in Nigeria dies annually before their 5th birthday and 28% of the deaths were caused by diseases that are vaccine-preventable diseases, which result in paralysis (wild polio virus) and financial burden.

According to the Team, although Nigeria pays fully for the traditional vaccines, Gavi supports government of Nigeria heavily on new financing. Nigeria however, became illegible for continued Gavi support thus, the gradual transition of Gavi support will commence in 2017 and last till 2021. During the transition period and thereafter, Nigeria will need to mobilise more financial resources to fill the funding gaps.

It explained that data from National Primary Health Care Development Agency shows that we need to appropriate about $140 million for routine immunization vaccine for 2017-18 in the 2017 Appropriation Act to ensure timely availability of vaccines. This unprecedented increase, in the words of the Team, results from the introduction of new vaccines, the increasing infant population, and the transition out of Gavi support. Unfortunately, these changes are occurring in a dynamic context – historically inadequate budget for immunization, economic recession and lack of political will to implement the 15% Abuja Declaration or not less than 1% Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) for Basic Heath Care Development Fund as stipulated in the National Health Act 2014.

The Team recommended strategic actions by key policy makers and stakeholders to ensure sustainable immunization financing in Nigeria; enhanced working relationship between the House and Senate to ensure adequate budgetary allocation for vaccine and immunization in 2017 budget. It also, urged the House to ensure budgetary allocation of not less than 1% CRF to finance the Basic Health Care Fund in the 2017 budget

Monitoring, review and evaluation

The Wellbeing Foundation Africa in its submission recommended adoption of weekly review of national and states data on the current state of maternal health through a common dashboard supported by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, the National Population Commission, and the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency to provide holistic legislative support towards adequate financing for Primary Health Care in the country.

PHC revitalization, long overdue

Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy submitted that the need to revitalize primary health care system in Nigeria is long overdue, as majority of Nigerians live in rural areas where many diseases are prevalent. Many of these diseases leave Nigerians with permanent disabilities that may require lifelong rehabilitation.

The group recommended prioritized attention towards the rehabilitation of Primary Health Care; promotion of healthy lifestyle; flexible, responsive and innovative approach to developing services that are reflective of local needs, environment and available resources.

Life-or-death consequences

Civil Society Organizations in Health Sector Reform Coalition (HSRC) noted that investments in health contribute to a healthy population, and a healthy population is paramount to the development of a thriving and modern economy.

“If Nigeria increased life expectancy by just one year, it would translate to approximately $19.2 billion in additional economic output; in 2015 this would have yielded a 279% return to the economy. Moreover, every dollar invested in vaccine programs can yield at least 16 more dollars in economic returns.

Failure to invest in health forfeits the potential economic benefits for Nigeria and has life-or-death consequences,” it warned.

The Coalition recommended implementation of the National Health Act, which set aside not less than 1% of Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Basic Health Care Provisions Funds;  increased allocation to the health sector at all levels of Government to reach the 15% percent Abuja Declaration benchmark of African Heads of State in 2001; increased efficiency and effectiveness of the health sector spending through greater value for money strategies; full and timely release of capital budget of health sector starting from 2017 financial year; encouraged public-private partnership to enhance adequate fund provision for Primary Health Care.

Ghana Retreat and renewed legislative health agenda

In a communiqué signed by Chair, Committee on Health Services, Hon Chike John Okafor; Chair, Committee on Health Institutions Hon (Mrs) Betty Apiafi; Chair, Committee on Appropriation, Hon Mustapha Bala Dawaki; and the Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), at the end of the Retreat in Ghana, it was observed that “while adequate, accessible and affordable health care system is paramount to the survival of the citizens, Nigerian health care system is one of the worst hit by inadequate budgetary allocation, delayed release, lack of judicious utilisation of the existing funds, and poor monitoring that discourage transparency and accountability at all levels.

“Although Primary Health Care (PHC) remains the most acceptable approach to deliver effective, accessible and acceptable health and services at all levels, effective implementation of PHC objectives has been hampered by lingering inadequate budgetary allocation.

“Delayed domestication and implementation of the international, continental and regional conventions and protocols on health as well as the 2014 National Health Act, inadequate budgetary allocation to health sector, poor monitoring and lack of judicious utilisation of the existing funds has hampered accountability, and effective provision and distribution of basic health package across the country.

“Revenue Deficit amounting to N2.2trillion in the 2016 Appropriation Act, and the existing lowest revenue-to-GDP ratio pose inherent challenge to the adequate financing for health care system in Nigeria, including the allocation of statutory 1% Consolidated Revenue Fund as provides in the 2014 National Health Act.

“Delayed incorporation of Information Communication and Technology into health care management and delivery in the country impedes adequate tracking and monitoring and timely achievement of Primary Health Care objectives.

“Over-concentration of skilled health workers in the urban areas at the expense of the rural areas health impedes effective health delivery and access to adequate primary healthcare at the grassroots. Improved access, quality and equity in the health sector are enabled by adequate investment, infrastructure, appropriate oversight and effective institutional governance.

“Lack of political will by some State and Local Governments to fulfill counterpart commitments on health care financing is a great impediment to adequate primary health care in Nigeria.”

The communiqué observed that Nigeria has hitherto not independently funded or produced its own vaccine as a result of inadequate funding for health and untapped capacity or technical know-how for the local production of vaccine; and adequate revenue generation in Nigeria to financing critical sector like health is hindered by unchecked illicit financial flows, loopholes in tax collection and administration at all levels.

The Retreat recommended integrating Primary Health Care under one roof to improve coordination, effective management, functional and quality healthcare system, especially at local levels; adoption of ICT-based approach in the Nigeria health care system management and delivery to attain cost-saving, adequate, accessible and appropriate health service delivery at all levels; provision of adequate technology and innovation to generate, analyse and communicate health data disaggregated by gender, age, geographical location, health status amongst others; improved incentive and reward system aimed at encouraging and motivating health workers, especially in the rural areas to reduce rural-urban migration of skilled health workers.

Participants recommended flexibility in the implementation of the National Health Act 2014 through participatory and inclusive procedures to recognise the various local context and peculiarities impacting on the effective implementation of the Act by the State Governments; creation of enabling institutional, legal and policy environment to ensure  increased public-private investment in Primary Health Care in order to promote health care technology and innovation and accessible and affordable health care delivery at all level.

On financing for Primary Health Care, the Retreat recommended adequate Primary Health Care financing in Nigeria through enhanced political actions for resource mobilisation and full-fledged implementation of the National Health Act 2014 with prioritised attention to the 1% provision of Consolidated Revenue Fund from the national budget; improved budgeting system through performance-based approach to prioritising and addressing endemic challenges confronting the implementation of the National Health Act 2014 and adequate Primary Health Care financing in Nigeria; establishment of a Ministerial Fund Disbursement Committee to ensure appropriate tracking, monitoring and effective management of the 1% statutory allocation to health, to address inherent problems of counterpart funding to the State Governments; development of sustainable self-funded and legislative-backed immunisation plan through the creation of an Immunisation Trust Fund (ITF), a public-private vehicle to fund procurement of vaccines and drive critical research and acquisition of appropriate technologies to encourage local production of immunisation vaccine, with the goal of reducing and eliminating reliance on importation; innovative financing of Primary Health Care delivery through various sources within short, medium and long-term such as economic diversification, use of % of existing taxes and additional taxes on Cigarettes and alcohol; investment in preventive healthcare services and infrastructure, including the reactivation of DDT as an immediate means to eradicating malarial at all levels; local and State governments ought to revive Primary health by making adequate budgetary provisions so the Federal government can face its responsibility of tertiary health care.

The Retreat further recommended strengthening of legislative oversight in Primary Health Care financing through legislative-executive collaboration and creation of synergies to promote transparency and accountability in the management of funds for Primary Health Care system; and proactively creation of an enabling environment to ensure effective and sustainable Primary Health care and childhood immunization financing in Nigeria.

Legislative Oversight and Primary Health Care Financing

By Abubakar Jimoh

While adequate, accessible and affordable health care system is paramount to the survival of the citizens, Nigerian health care system is one of the worsts hit by inadequate budgetary allocation, delayed release, lack of judicious utilisation of the existing funds, and poor monitoring that discourage transparency and accountability at all levels. The Primary Health Care component bears the major challenges confronting adequate health care delivery in the country. Efforts to ensuring adequate and timely delivery of qualitative health care services at all levels led to the promulgation of the National Health Act in 2014.

The National Health Act 2014 is a comprehensive legal document containing several pro-poor provisions for primary health care which if effectively implemented, will resuscitate the dwindling health care resources, facilities and services at all levels, especially giving the 1% Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) from national budget. Appropriate legislative oversight has therefore, becomes imperative to ensure effective implementation of the pro-poor Act.

It is on this premise that House of Representatives’ Committees on Health and Appropriation in collaboration with Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) organised a two-day retreat in Accra, Ghana, to provide a platform for the Committees to discuss and review current challenges and opportunities in financing Primary Health Care in Nigeria.

Significance of Primary Health Care

In his opening remarks, the Chairman House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Mustapha Bala Dawaki coined the importance of Primary Healthcare when he said, “the importance of Healthcare Delivery Services most especially in the rural areas where majority of our citizens’ lives cannot be over emphasized, most especially in developing societies like Nigeria.”

The Chairman continues: “Primary Health Care centres which should be in every cranny of our society are today absent due to poor funding of the exercise since after its creation. This has accounted for the failing Health Services and the resurgence of diseases that have long been eradicated in many countries like the resurgence of Polio…”

Lack of political will in the implementation

Also, the Chairman House Committee on Health Services, Hon Chike John Okafor did not conceal the fact that Primary Health Care without doubt remains the most acceptable approach for attaining universal health coverage in a health system. “Therefore, when this approach is adequately financed and implemented, it will not only have the capacity of reducing ill-health and increase affordability of quality healthcare but will ultimately, better productivity and economic status of our country.

“The critical elements Primary Health Care deserve adequate financing and pull od resources for planning, development and implementation. This is mostly relied on strong political will of governments which prioritises the health sector in budget appropriations,” he said.

The Chairman observed lack of political will of governments, resulting in the dearth of funding of the Primary Health Care and continuous dilapidating services and delivery especially in the areas of maternal and new-born, immunisation and malnutrition.

He added: “Nigerian Government has been signatories to several conventions and declarations in the past and made progress towards achieving the commitments made in those signatories. One of the most significant declarations is the Abuja Declaration of 2001, where African Union Heads of States met and pledged 15% of National Budget allocation to the health sector. However, despite being ranked the largest economy in Africa and having overall increase in the allocation of budget to health over the years, Nigeria health budget still hover around 5 to 6 percent of the total annual budget.

“Consequently, Nigeria is yet to fulfil its commitment to the 15% Abuja Declaration. It is worthy to note that there other African Countries with much less resources who have met and even surpass the pledge made at the declaration, with evidence of better health and economic outcomes. Some of these countries are Rwanda with an 18% of its national budget to the health sector, Botswana and Niger with a 17.8%, Malawi with 17.1%, Zambia (16.4%) and Burkina Faso (15.8%).

“This shows that reaching the Abuja Declaration is a realistic goal and the most important approach to achieving this goal is to encourage a strong political will from the Federal Government and continue to push for the provision of the 1% of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF). From projections by experts, the 1% CRF will amount to billions of Naira from the Federal Government alone.”

In order to address the lingering financial challenges in the health sector, Hon. Okafor recommended among other things: step-up campaign for private donations; encouraged inter-sectoral collaboration between health sector and other sectors to channel alternative resources to health; encouraged public-private partnership; and improved value for money in health spending.

Adopting ICT in the health care management

The Chairman House Committee on Health Institutions, Hon. Betty Apiafi, called for the amendment of the National Health Act to ensure flexibility in the implementation through participatory and inclusive process. She recommended the adoption of ICT-based approach in the Nigeria health care system management and delivery to attain cost-saving, adequate, accessible and appropriate health service delivery at all levels.

A country with poor health indices in Sub-Saharan Africa

The Honourable Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole represented by … reiterated that Nigeria as a unique country in Africa deserves world class health system that provides good quality health care to improve health outcomes, reduce inequity in health access and outcomes.

He bemoaned the poor health indices attributed to Nigeria in Sub-Saharan Africa such as Maternal Mortality and Infant Mortality totalling 576 per 100,000 and 69 per 1,000 respectively comparing to those of other countries like Ghana, 319 and 43; Ethiopia, 353 and 41; Kenya, 510 and 36; and South Africa, 138 and 34.

These poor outcomes according to the Minister are largely driven by low coverage rates of key basic health services, adding that limited access to basic health services by lower quartile contributes to mortality rates.

Prof. Adewole identified as part of the impediments to effective performance of health care system in Nigeria: overlapping responsibilities across the different levels of government with each tier of government intervening transversely in primary, secondary and tertiary care; lack of inter-governmental accountability to enhance health systems performance; fragmentation of accountability systems; limited capacity to drive and execute policy ; poor budget process and planning; lack of demand for data and weak performance management systems; focus on inputs rather than results and outcomes; lack of pooled payment systems to support risk equalization and cross subsidisation; and high Out-of-Pocket expenditure, which increases citizens exposure to financial catastrophe.

Dreadful impacts of the inadequate financing

The Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) noted that the retreat was timely as the nation moves towards another fiscal year, where critical inputs are expected into the nation’s budgetary process, especially by the executive and legislative arms of the government.

He said: “Health remains a major challenge in the development of Nigerian’s economy. This fact is buttressed by the study conducted by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in 2013. The study shows that in Nigeria, one in 13 women dies during pregnancy or childbirth, and 12% of children die before reaching the age of five. The study observed that every 10 minutes one woman dies from conditions associated with childbirth.

“According to the study, only 39% births take place with assistance of medically trained personnel, coupled with the scarcity of skilled attendants, absence of personnel, among other factors impeding the effectiveness of health services in the country. In a situation where by nearly half of the population loses only plunges the economy and impedes development as every one person counts in any country’s development.

“Similarly, while it is confirmed that Child Spacing has direct impact on the health of the family and grossly the economy of a nation as a whole with tendency to mitigate maternal and child deaths in the country, yet, budgetary allocation to Child Spacing in the context of Nigeria Family Planning Blueprint and the Costed Implementation Plans is an endemic challenge at all levels.

The Executive Director bemoaned the announcement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring Nigeria free in 2015 from the long-time dreadful polio epidemic which was recently reversed as two different cases of wild polio virus reportedly resurfaced in Borno state in the absence of adequate financing and timely release of fund by the government to sustain gains of halting polio in the country.

Existing legal and financial provisions

The CISLAC’s boss recalled that the National Health Act 2014, a comprehensive legal document, which implementation was supposed to have commenced since 2015 is yet to see the light of day even in the 2016 Appropriation Act. “Though financing health care system remains a major challenge across the world, but Nigeria is yet to demonstrate the ability to face this challenge so that the health system can benefit citizens at all levels”.

It is against this backdrop that the Health Minister noted that the National Health Act came to limelight as part of the efforts to address specific challenges confronting adequate health care delivery such as responsibility for health and eligibility for health services and establishment of National Health System; health establishments and Technologies; rights and obligations of users and health care personnel; National Health Research and Information System; Human Resources for Health; Control of use of blood, blood products, tissue and gametes in humans; and regulations and miscellaneous provisions

The Act according to him increases the fiscal space for health through the Basic Health Care Provision Fund, as established under Section 11 of the National Health Act will increase  the  fiscal  space  and  overall   financing  to  the  health  sector  to  assist  Nigeria achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC); and enhance the principal  funding  vehicle   for  the  Basic  Minimum  Package  of  Health  Services   (BMPHS).

Deliberating on Provision Plan for Financing Basic Health Care, the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akabueze noted that the overarching health sector goal for Nigeria, as for most nations, is Universal Health Coverage (UHC), which is achievable through provision of an estimated $86 per person in providing basic health services.

In his analysis, though the recommended public expenditure on health is 5% of a nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but Nigeria currently spends only about 1% of GDP. “Consequently, the burden of paying for healthcare in Nigeria is disproportionately borne by households, most of which have no health insurance.”

On the present economic downturn, which reduces ability of Nigerian households to fund out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, and hence generally excludes the poorest and most vulnerable from access to healthcare, the Director-General noted the importance of National Health Act (2014). The Act provides for the creation of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) as part of efforts to improve public funding of healthcare. The Fund was established to finance various health programs, and specifically to improve access to quality Primary Health Care (PHC) across the country.

He explained that 50% of the fund will be transferred to the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to cover basic health care services; 45% will be disbursed to the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) for essential drugs/vaccines/consumables, maintaining PHC facilities, equipment, transportation, and strengthening human resource capacity at primary healthcare facilities around the country; and final 5% will be used by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) to respond to health emergencies and epidemics.

As stipulates by Section 11 of the National Health Act, the Fund will be largely sourced from a “Federal Government Annual Grant of not less than one percent of its Consolidated Revenue Fund.”

Based on the draft Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF&FSP) 2017-2019, the Budget Office’s boss mentioned that 1% of CRF translates to an average of N35bn per annum over the next 3 years, stating that additional sources of funding the BHCPF include grants by Development Partners and funds generated from innovative sources such as taxes on cigarettes and alcohol.

He is however bothered by implementation challenges such as the judicious utilisation of the funds to achieve the desired objectives; ability of the states to provide counterpart funds; widely differing map of status of primary healthcare across the states; ability of the most vulnerable to subscribe to the 0.5% National Health Insurance Scheme of Consolidated Revenue Fund; the existing administrative structure of fund between the State and Local Governments.

Declining budgetary allocation to health sector

Recalling the poor allocation to health sector in the 2016 national budget, the Executive Director, Budgit Nigeria, Mr. Seun Onigbinde lamented that health    as a critical sector received as low as N257bn (4.13%) when infrastructure, defence, education, police was allocated N467bn (7.7%), N429bn (7.07%), N406bn           (6.7%), and N300bn (4.95%).

Comparing data from various health allocations since 2013, he observed that the health budget peaked in 2013 at N280bn but despite the rise in  the budget size, health budget has declined from N257bn.

“Health allocation as share of National Budget has been declining and huge dip in 2016 (4.13%) from 5.78% in 2015. It is baffling to note that recurrent expenditure accounts for 88-95% of the budget since 2011. Federal Government has been spending so little on capital components of health budgets.

“Federal Government’s actually budgets N1, 438 annually for health per Nigerian.  With over 100m Nigerian without health insurance, the country grapples with weak infrastructure mostly at the primary health level.

“While the budget grew by 36% in 2016, health budget declined by 0.7%; 84% of the budget is still meant for personnel costs and    too little less than 14% spent  on capital expenditure. The Ministry of Health has 128 units            but 60% of the health  CAPITAL budget is allocated to the Federal Ministry of Health and National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA),”the Budgit’s boss complained.

Understanding citizens’ rights to demand accountability  

In a paper titled “National Health Act & Provisions: How it will impact the Health Sector”, Dr. Muhammad Muhammad Saleh, a Technical Consultant on Health noted that the National Health Act is one single instrument required to unlock economy and the greatest transformation for the health sector in Nigeria.

He stated that the Act has established the Nigerian National Health System specifying all the key players and actors therein and their roles and responsibilities.

“An aggrieved person may lay a complaint about the manner in which he or she was treated at a health establishment and have the complaint investigated. Public officers are barred from medical checkup, investigation or treatment abroad at public expense, except in exceptional cases approved by a medical board and Minister or Commissioner of Health.

“The manipulation of genetic material (“cloning”) and the import/export of embryos are prohibited. Post mortems and autopsies can only be authorized by the following; spouse, child, parent, guardian, brother or sister – in that order,” the Consultant explained.

Dr. Saleh observed the Act as a very important development to change the status quo to guarantee the Right to Health for all citizens.

“Health services are classified as essential services and the Minister of Health is required to apply all reasonable measures to ensure return to normalcy after disruption within 14 days (i.e. Strikes). You can hold government accountable on their responsibilities to provide you with good health care service(s). All organizations, people and actions whose primary intent is to promote, restore and maintain health in Nigeria,” he noted.

Appropriate HIS to aid citizens’ decision

Similarly, Dr Jibril Muhammad Bashar, a Consultant at Health Policy and System Development recounted the prominence of the National Health Act when he added: “a comprehensive Health System that is promotive, protective, preventive, restorative and rehabilitative. Health System Based on Primary Healthcare reflecting the economic conditions, socio-cultural and political characteristics of the communities, addressing the main problems in the communities.”

Dr. Bashar An Integrated and Co-ordinated National Health Care System that is multi-sectoral, with community involvement, and collaboration with non-governmental organisations. He observed as key to effective health system management: planning, organisation, directing, staffing, coordinating, and budgeting.

In order to attain the national goal of achieving health for all Nigerians, he recommended appropriate Health Information System, which includes the availability of accurate, timely, reliable and relevant health information to inform public health action.

He added: “The planning, monitoring and evaluation of health services are hampered by the dearth of reliable data at all levels. A national health information system has been established, effort however, should be made to ensure data collected are accurate and timely and ownership should be institutionalised by Nigerian government. Efforts should be made to implement community based systems for the collection of vital health statistics of births and deaths.”

NASS: A Critical Assessment of One-Year Legislative Activities

By Abubakar Jimoh

The recent celebrations of Nigeria’s Democracy Day marked exactly one year since the emergence of the 8th National Assembly with a solemn declaration asserting that the Assembly under the new legislators shall make relentless legislative effort to resolve Nigeria’s problems.

Apparently, critical performance assessment of the Assembly has become essential to understand how the legislators are faring in their trend towards fulfilling their electoral mandates.

Legislature as a law-making body of a political unit has power to enact, amend, and repeal public policy. Just as the legislature has the mandate to control through legislation all economic, social and political activities of the nation, it also scrutinizes the policies of the executive and provides the framework for the judiciary to operate.

The core mandates of the legislature are explicitly stated in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is on this note that the Constitution outlines the powers of the Federal legislature, which is divided into two Chambers: the Senate (Upper Chamber) and the House of Representatives (Lower Chamber).

This piece takes critical assessment of performance by the legislators in accordance with those key constitutional functions identified by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) such as law-making, oversight, representation, financial control, confirmation of appointment, and constitution amendment.

Law-making

Section 4(1) of the Constitution provides that the “legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.”

Among the first year appreciable legislative efforts by the 8th Assembly were the passage of significant Bills such as Appropriation Bill 2016, Criminalisation of Sexual Harassment Bill, North East Development Commission Bill, Electronic Transaction Bill, Debt Recovery and Insolvency Bill 2015 and the Railway Transformation Bill.

The House has constituted a standing Committee on Refugees, Migrants, Internally Displaced Persons and Initiatives on the North East Zone. It passed a Resolution on Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Recovery and Development of the North East of Nigeria. In addition, a request was made to President Muhammadu Buhari to set up machinery for the establishment of a North East Development Commission and to facilitate the convening of an International Donor Conference or Summit as soon as possible to actualise the Resolution.

The Upper Legislative Chamber has passed no fewer than 300 Bills and 162 motions. In collaboration with international partners and the private sector, it researched into the ways and means of improving the business environment to attract investment which led to the identification of 54 laws that must be brought in line with international best practices in order to open up the business environment for private investment and business, and the subsequent 15 major economic reform bills and seven business environment bills that would help to jump-start the economy and improve the living conditions of Nigerians.

Similarly, within the period, the House received a total of 685 bills and considered over 530 motions compared to 123 bills passed and 115 motions considered by 7th Assembly in four years. While 130 bills were passed for the First Reading on a single day in 2015, the Speaker compared these achievements with the 591 bills introduced in the Seventh National Assembly in four years.

Also, in terms of legislation, Nigerians would not fast forget the egocentric attempt by the Upper Chamber to hasting the passage of proposed amendment to the law setting up the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), with a view to whittling down the agencies’ powers.

This triggered public debates on need for persistent checks and balances over the constitutional power of the legislature. For instance, a group of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working to promote justice and good governance in Nigeria described as “betrayal of public trust, total disregard for administration of justice, and utmost conflict of interest”, the attempt by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to hasten the passage of the proposed amendment to the law setting up the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

The group, which consists 23 CSOs in a press conference held recently in Abuja noted that it was monitoring with consternation, “the undemocratic, self-serving, and dubious effort of the Senate”. It said it was clear that the underhand moves in the Senate were aimed at whittling down the powers of the agencies, and not about making it better to strengthen the anti-corruption fight.

Besides, despite public criticisms against the Assembly’s huge budget as contains in the 2016 Appropriation Act, the original sum allocated was retained. Indeed, attempt by the executive arm to halt the overburden cost of governance in the legislature resulted in needless delay in the passage and assent to the 2016 Appropriation Bill. The legislature’s high cost of governance in the face of the nation’s austere financial challenges had received serious criticisms from the public. For instance, Robert Awokuse, a public affair analysis wrote: “It is pitiable that many political office holders are not ready to make necessary sacrifices that will enhance speedy development. The latest situation at the National Assembly indicated that many of the federal lawmakers may not be ready to make some sacrifices as being predicted by many political watchers.

“If indeed the lawmakers, as representatives of the Nigerians, refuse any possible reduction of their salary and allowances, their actions may be said to contrast the role of a responsible father, who is expected to prioritise the needs of his family over his own sentiments. Many have fumed at the swelling ranks of lawmakers who accrue so much to themselves, particularly the situation where they are alleged to collect huge salaries and allowances, running into billions of naira without addressing the legitimate concerns of the workers.”

Another attempt of the Nigerian Senate to regulate the social media platforms through a Bill entitled “Frivolous Petitions Bill” received serious response, mostly condemnations both within and outside the country. Many questioned the significant of “Social Media Bill” to speedily command intensive legislative support of the Upper Chamber and scaled through the second reading within short time, unlike other important Bills that would have served the best interest of common Nigerians like National Health Bill (now Act) which laid dormant in the Assembly for more than a decade before it was successfully passed into law by the 7th Assembly; Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB); Protection of Persons with Disabilities Bill; Anti-torture Bill; 2010 Electoral Act Amendment Bill; Whistle-blower Protection Bill; Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill; among others. The Bill was later withdrawn following persistent public outcry.

Oversight function

Oversight function of the National legislature is provided under Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended in 2010), which empowers the legislature to carry out investigations within its competence to prevent and expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws.

As part of its oversight efforts, worried by paucity of funds in many states of the federation to carry out developmental projects, in April 2016, the National Assembly summoned 26 states over the expenses incurred on the federal roads projects executed in their respective states, with a view to ascertaining the facts and figures for a refund. The meeting was reportedly called at the instance of the House Committee on Works so as to assist the committee to verify all claims submitted by the states affected by non-payment of funds incurred on some of the federal roads projects.

The Assembly had summoned key players in the petroleum industry over the state of the country’s refineries and N1trillion oil revenue fund reportedly missing the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI). The House Committee on Privatisation at the same summoned Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu to explain reasons behind the decision of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) rather than the Bureau of Public En­terprises (BPE) opening bids for the sale of the three refineries in Warri, Kaduna and Port Har­court.

The Senate and the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Appropriation had summoned the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and her budget and Planning counterpart, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma to appear before it and explain the reasons behind the 2016 proposed budget mess. Concerned by the present economic situation in the country, the Senate summoned the Minister of Finance and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele to appear before it and brief the Upper chamber on the Monetary and fiscal policies adopted to salvage the current economic situation. The House also summoned the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, to explain the policy directing commercial banks to reject foreign currency deposits.

The House as well summoned the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Mr. Solomon Arase, and the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, over the AGF’s directive to the IG to disregard the National Assembly’s resolution to seal Kogi State House of Assembly pending the resolution of the crisis that engulfed the Assembly.

Representation

Representation is an important function of the legislature. The legislature has the primary mandate to carry out representative functions on behalf of the people who in our case, are demarcated in 360 federal constituencies. The legislators have a duty to represent the interests of their individual constituencies. Apart from servicing the needs of constituencies, for legislators to be effective, they must listen to their constituencies, brief them about legislative and policy issues, aggregate the demands of these constituencies into legislative agenda and project these demands on the floor of the legislative chambers.

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) opines that as representatives of the people, legislators not only derive their mandate directly from the people but also have to render accountability to the people.

In the analysis of CISLAC, there are three dimensions of legislative accountability: Information accountability—the extent to which representatives provide information to their constituencies; Representational accountability—the extent to which actions and deliberations of legislators informed by the actual issues that their constituencies want addressed; and Governance accountability—the extent to which legislators ensure that the executives over which they oversight utilize public resources to promote the welfare of the people and to generally develop the society.

Within the year under review, legislative activities were dominated by the procurement of 108 brand new Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles by the Senate in spite the financial challenges confronting the country and the public clamour for reduction in cost of governance, resulting in extensive public debates on what should constitute legislative mandates and core democratic values. The legislative time and resources geared towards the baseless struggles for possession of the vehicles became a shocking development; as the citizens began to question the quality and interest of the legislators who were primarily elected to serve common goal. Nigerians did not hid their ill-feelings against the legislators’ sudden clamour for exotic vehicles at a time when the country is confronted with a chronic public finance challenge characterised by inability of many states to pay salaries and the inability of the Federal Government to raise sufficient revenue amidst declining crude oil prices.

This to a large extent raises a critical question on whether the citizens have fair representation in the legislature and if they do, how accountable and transparent are legislators in the legislative issues. The extent of public dissatisfaction in the legislative representation was explicitly stated in a statement by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) President, Ayuba Wabba, when he said it was “morally despicable and shameful” that the lawmakers embarked on such acquisition when they were supposed to occupy themselves with issues that would benefit the people.

“We consider appalling, insensitive and greedy the decision of the Senate to acquire 108 Toyota Land Cruiser jeeps (one for each member less the Senate President) after collecting car “loans” in August last year for the same purpose,” Wabba said.

Similarly, Olalekan Adigun, a Political Risk Analyst, in a recent published piece titled “Wither the Senate?” bemoaned: “Since current Senator are former governors, ministers, Representatives and other political office holders, who are on in one way or the other on public financed pensions, we propose withdrawal of monetary packages for these previous political officeholders in the Red Chamber. Legislative bodies are not money-spinning institutions. The legislature is a chamber of reflection, not luxuries.”

The legislators have a duty to represent the interests of the public. Apart from servicing the needs of constituencies, for legislators to be effective, they must listen to the citizens, brief them about legislative and policy issues, aggregate the demands of these constituencies into legislative agenda and project these demands on the floor of the legislative chambers.

Despite the intensity of the destructions recorded in the on-going face-off between the Presidency and Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), who are allegedly involved in the destruction of oil pipelines, the Assembly has not publicly communicated its position to mitigate or avert the crisis.

Constituency outreach

Strengthening the linkages between a legislature and the people is a necessary step for promoting peace and stability in a democratic system. In the words of Nikhil Dutta et al, these linkages are two-way phenomena—top-down and bottom-up communication. That is, legislators represent the people`s interests, while simultaneously providing feedback and information to their constituents on the political processes.

In this case, when citizens feel that their views are represented in government and their representative bear constituents` interests in mind, they are not only encouraged to participate in legislative process, but also accept the legislature to enact legislation and the executive to implement and enforce it.
So far, constituency outreach by the 8th Assembly has poorly communicated, requiring improvement due to lack of structure for feedback. The Assembly must explore various feedback mechanisms to ensure full participation and involvement of the constituents in the legislative process.

Confirmation of Appointment

The power of the Assembly to confirm appointments by the executives is contained under 147 (2) of the constitution which states: “Any appointment to the office of Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the President.”

Within the first year, several nominees for appointments were screed and confirmed by the Assembly. These include the appointment of ministerial nominees forwarded to it by President Muhammadu Buhari. The nominees were Nigerians drawn from across the states and different professions.
In line with section 18 (1) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap A 20 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Senate confirmed the appointment of the new Service Chiefs. They are Major-General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin as Chief of Defence Staff along with Major-General Tukur Yusufu Buratai as Chief of Army Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas as Chief of Naval Staff and Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar as Chief of Air Staff.

The Senate witnessed the consideration and confirmation of Engr. Prof. Umaru Garba Danbatta for appointment as Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). It confirmed the appointment of Management Directors of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) including: Ahmed Lawan Karu as Managing Director, Kola Adeyeye as Executive Director, Eberechukwu Fortunate Uneze as Executive Director, Aminu Isma’il as Executive Director.

The Senate approved the appointment of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu as Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with five other commissioners—Mrs. Amina Bala Zakari (North West), Dr. Antonia Taiye Okoosi-Simbile (North Central), Alhaji Baba Shettima Arfo (North East), Dr. Mohammed Mustapha Lecky (South-south), and Prince Adedeji Solomon Soyebi (South West).
Also, the Senate screened and confirmed the nomination of Mr. Abdullahi Kaugama as the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Jigawa State, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in accordance with Section 143

of the third schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as Amended.

Constitution Amendment

Amendment of the Constitution is another fundamental function of legislature. The power and requirement by the National Assembly for constitutional amendment is laid down in Section 9(1) of the 1999 Constitution, which states: “The National Assembly may, subject to the provision of this section, alter any of the provisions of this Constitution.”

It would be recalled that the Senate president, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, had urged members of the State Houses of Assembly in the 36 states to collaborate with the National Assembly in ensuring the timely amendment and passage of the 1999 Constitution this year. This raises a question on how many times would fruitless effort be made to amend the Constitution. During the past administration, over N2billion expended on the amendment of the Constitution, which was later rejected former President Goodluck Jonathan, just like the one that was also not concluded after millions of naira had been spent.

Financial Control

It is the core of democracy that legislature controls the finance. That is, no money could be spent or raised by the executive without the previous consent and approval of the legislature. Also, no money can be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund of the state without authorization of legislature. Annually, budget containing the estimated expenditure and income of the ensuing year is placed before it.

The legislatures must ensure effective control over public resources (the budget legislation). Section 80 lays the powers of the legislature with respect over budget.

In the wake of New Year, confusion had trailed the N6.08trillion 2016 Appropriation Bill earlier submitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, following his outright rejection of some line items, leading to the subsequent withdrawal of the Bill for adjustment.

In a letter addressed to the Assembly, the President officially called for withdrawal of the Bill for adjustment. The call for its withdrawal by president Buhari was not unconnected to the discovery of some exorbitant figures not in tune with the current dismal economic realities in the country.

Following the return of the Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly by President Buhari, relevant joint committees of the Assembly were charged to subject the Bill to rigorous scrutiny to ensure holistic compliance to the fundamental principles of the proposed Zero-Based Budgeting.

However, on its passage to the executive for assent, President Buhari had refused assent to the Bill upon misgivings that a number of critical projects notably, the Calabar-Lagos rail line, were removed by the Senate and House Committees on Appropriation, led by Senator Danjuma Goje and Abdulmmumin Jibrin respectively. Pressures by the Presidency on the need to rewrite the Budget and include critical projects left out in the appropriation bill as passed slipped into another crisis with the threat by the National Assembly to veto.

More importantly, the Joint Committees also slashed funding of routine immunisation for sustainable polio eradication from N8 billion to N4 billion, forgetting dare dreadful consequences of such decision. In response, in a press conference held in Lagos, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Community Health and Research Initiative (CHR) under the aegis of Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFAH) seriously frowned at the slashed funding for routine immunisation.

After weeks of wrangling over the 2016 Appropriation Bill, the National Assembly and the presidency finally reached a compromise on the finer details of the budget. Part of the negotiation was to retain the main underlining figures and parameters of the budget with the executive giving some room to the National Assembly to alter, where necessary, up to 20-30 per cent of the budgets of federal ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). Standing on this principle, the joint committee of the National Assembly and the executive reviewed the subheads of the MDAs to ensure that where budget cuts or additions exceeded the 20-30 per cent threshold, they were amended in line with the agreement reached on the budget. Through this process, the slashed funding for routine immunisation was also returned.

Nigerian Legislators and Public interest

By Abubakar Jimoh

The recent procurement of 108 brand new Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles by the Senate in spite the financial challenges comforting the country and the public clamour for reduction in cost of governance has resulted in extensive debates on the legislative mandates and core democratic values.

As the Senate comes under intense criticism following reports that the top lawmaking body had started taking delivery of the vehicles at N36.5 million each as unit cost, the distribution of the vehicles was reportedly dividing the Senate, generating tension and ill-feelings among members of the Upper Chamber who sensed lop-sidedness in the process.

The legislative time and resources geared towards the baseless struggles for possession of the vehicles became a shocking development; as the citizens began to question the quality and interest of the legislators who were primarily elected to serve common goal.

Many have wondered why the legislators’ sudden clamour for exotic vehicles at a time when the country is confronted with a chronic public finance challenge characterised by inability of many states to pay salaries and the inability of the Federal Government to raise sufficient revenue amidst declining crude oil prices.

Prior to the procurement of exotic vehicles by the Senate, outrageous cost of governance in the face of the nation’s austere financial challenges had received serious criticisms from the public. For instance, Robert Awokuse, a public affair analysis wrote: “It is pitiable that many political office holders are not ready to make necessary sacrifices that will enhance speedy development. The latest situation at the National Assembly indicated that many of the federal lawmakers may not be ready to make some sacrifices as being predicted by many political watchers.

“If indeed the lawmakers, as representatives of the Nigerians, refuse any possible reduction of their salary and allowances, their actions may be said to contrast the role of a responsible father, who is expected to prioritise the needs of his family over his own sentiments.

“Many have fumed at the swelling ranks of lawmakers who accrue so much to themselves, particularly the situation where they are alleged to collect huge salaries and allowances, running into billions of naira without addressing the legitimate concerns of the workers.”

While democratic values are the fundamental beliefs and constitutional principles of the country, the legislature has the primary responsibility to uphold and strictly adhere to the values within the jurisdiction of its mandates.

The core mandates—legislation, representation, oversight, constituency outreach—of the legislature has been explicitly stated in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

For instance, if such public expectations from the legislature including pro-poor legislation; investigations within its competence to prevent and expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws; and constituents’ interest representation and outreach are unmet, the public confidence in the legislature may be eroded.

This has been explained in the words of Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho when he stressed: “The greatest threat for democratic experiment will be the failure of the legislature and the political class to respond to the needs of this new breed of public and this society in general. The public is, therefore, expectant that we will, as parliamentary administrators, propose innovative ways of responding to the interest and concerns of the public. This is essential if our respective democracies must stand the test of time.”

It is common knowledge that conflict of interest impedes effective performance of the legislators to discharge their mandates and uphold democratic values. It becomes mandated on them to understand that as representatives of the people not only do they derive their mandate directly from the electorate, but also owe the electorate proper accountability of their conducts in the legislature.

People-oriented legislators committed to the democratic value must make reasonable effort to avoid conflict of interest and effectively contribute to good governance by performing important functions that are necessary to sustain democracy in this complex and diverse country, rather than needless pursue of selfish interest.

Trending in path to democratic values, legislators must abide by the workable legislative Code of Conduct in their legislative activities as this will as well promote value of excellence, professionalism in their performance. Legislators must ensure civility and responsible conduct inside and outside of the Assembly commensurate with the trust placed in them by the electorate.

In discharge of legislative duties, high moral and ethical standards must be maintained to guarantee public’s confidence. Reasonable effort should be made to reduce to minimum, any conflict between private interests and official duties. This should be carefully observed and differentiated. By so doing, members should strive to avoid all manners of engagement that might comprise legislative code of conduct, values and ethical standards.

The legislators must build mutual cooperation and synergy to ensure qualitative legislation to promote the rights, welfare and standards of living of the people. On this note, legislators must shun unhealthy struggles for personal gains and ensure the democratic workability in their representative capacity. They owe Nigerians the fundamental duty to insist on good governance through qualitative legislation that can lead to socio-economic progress and prosperity of the country.

The extent of public dissatisfaction in the legislative representation was explicitly stated in a recent statement by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) President, Ayuba Wabba, when he said it was “morally despicable and shameful” that the lawmakers embarked on such acquisition when they were supposed to occupy themselves with issues that would benefit the people.

“We consider appalling, insensitive and greedy the decision of the Senate to acquire 108 Toyota Land Cruiser jeeps (one for each member less the Senate President) after collecting car “loans” in August last year for the same purpose,” Wabba said.

Similarly, Olalekan Adigun, a Political Risk Analyst, in a recent published piece titled “Wither the Senate?” bemoaned advised: “Since current Senator are former governors, ministers, Representatives and other political office holders, who are on in one way or the other on public financed pensions, we propose withdrawal of monetary packages for these previous political officeholders in the Red Chamber. Legislative bodies are not money-spinning institutions. The legislature is a chamber of reflection, not luxuries.”

The legislators have a duty to represent the interests of the public. Apart from servicing the needs of constituencies, for legislators to be effective, they must listen to the citizens, brief them about legislative and policy issues, aggregate the demands of these constituencies into legislative agenda and project these demands on the floor of the legislative chambers.

When legislature fails, or is perceived to fail, to commit to the public interest, this has an impact on the lives of ordinary people. Thus, in their representational capacity, the legislature must consider the extent to which their actions and deliberations informed by the actual issues that the citizens want addressed.

Innovative legislature must prioritise citizens’ opinion and create new ways to make their voices heard, giving them the ability to provide input into regulations, budgets, and the provision of services. Citizens’ expectations of public legislators’ performance influence their attitudes and behaviour towards services, including satisfaction, choice of service and political voice about them.

In a text titled “Public Administration”, Oliver James provides two forms of citizen expectations from the government—positive expectations of what performance will be and normative expectations of what performance should be.

He wrote: “The resilience of normative expectations suggests that poor performance will trigger dissatisfaction and citizen response rather than lowering expectations creating passive acceptance. In a field experiment, performance information effects are found for positive but not normative expectations.

“Providing information about excellent performance raises positive expectations and providing information about poor performance lowers positive expectations; negativity bias is evident with information about poor performance having a larger effect. Performance information that is credible to citizens can be used to manage citizens’ positive expectations but their normative expectations are less amenable to influence by this route.”

Upon election and assumption of the legislative position, the legislators are expected to approach all legislative functions and duties in full public interest for efficient and effective representation.

Representing the interest of the public, to command respect at all levels, the legislators must be wary of undesirable personal interest that may pose setback to their performance and generate negative public perception.

Legislative power: Understanding the checks and balances

By Abubakar Jimoh

The recent attempt by the Upper Chamber of the federal legislature to hast passage of the proposed amendment to the law setting up the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Code of Conduct Tribunal, with a view to whittling down the agencies’ powers had triggered discussions on need for persistent checks and balances over the constitutional power of the legislature.

It is noteworthy to state that the legislature plays an important role in the life of a nation. It thus performs such fundamental functions as adoption of new laws, amendment of the existing laws, constituency representation and oversight of the executive’s activities to ensure appropriate accountability to the people. Indeed, achieving good governance requires existence of an active, strong and efficient legislature.

While the faith of a nation’s democracy dependent largely on the legislative process involving laws that affects the electorate and citizen at large, in 2012, a report by Journal of Law, Policy and Globalisation observed that good governance of any country dependent solely on the kind of laws that are made by the legislatives. According to the report, the problem of democracy in Africa centres on legislative governance. “Most laws made by the legislatives are self-centred on them and seem to favour them not minding whether those laws have negative effects on the public.”

This to a large extent raises a critical question on whether the citizens have fair representation in the legislature and if they do, how accountable and transparent are legislators in the legislative issues. Also, the legislature is accountable to the people and the legislation has different power which is vested upon it by the constitution. To this length, another question emerges as what would be the extent and context of legislative accountability with reference to the power conferred upon it by the constitution?

The principle of checks and balances which guarantees that no part of the government becomes too powerful is well established in 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. For example, Section 4 (1-3) empowers the legislative branch to make laws when it states: “The legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives. (2) The National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Constitution. (3) The power of the National Assembly to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List shall, save as otherwise provided in this Constitution, be to the exclusion of the Houses of Assembly of States.”

Giving limitation of the legislative power, Section 4(8) states: “Save as otherwise provided by this Constitution, the exercise of legislative powers by the National Assembly or by a House of Assembly shall be subject to the jurisdiction of courts of law and of judicial tribunals established by law, and accordingly, the National Assembly or a House of Assembly shall not enact any law, that ousts or purports to oust the jurisdiction of a court of law or of a judicial tribunal established by law. (9) Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, the National Assembly or a House of Assembly shall not, in relation to any criminal offence whatsoever, have power to make any law which shall have retrospective effect.”

While on the executive power, section 5 (1)(a-b) adds: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of the Federation: (a) shall be vested in the President and may subject as aforesaid and to the provisions of any law made by the National Assembly, be exercised by him either directly or through the Vice-President and Ministers of the Government of the Federation or officers in the public service of the Federation; and (b) shall extend to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, all laws made by the National Assembly and to all matters with respect to which the National Assembly has, for the time being, power to make laws.”

Similarly, as representatives of the people not only do Nigerian legislators derive their mandate directly from the electorate, but also own the electorate proper accountability of their conducts in the legislature. Although the legislature has the power to make laws within its legislative competence, the power is strictly limited either by relevant provisions of the constitution.

Stipulating on the limitation upon the exercise of legislative power, American Law Register published by the University of Pennsylvania provides explicit explanations on the extent to which the legislature could exercise its constitution power when it noted: “… the legislature is not itself a sovereign power, that sovereignty resides in the people; that all power of legislation by sovereign people to their delegation in the legislature are subject to limitation springing from the nature of free government: some of which may be expressed in written or bill of rights, but many of which must rest for support only on fundamental principle of social compact; and that this is duty of judiciary to discover and declare, when the legislature is forgetful of its responsibilities, and through passion or partisanship enacts laws in disregards the right of the citizens and the good of the state.”

Another report by European Commission for Democracy has noted that legislatures are normally allowed to propose constitutional amendments, but with much stricter limitations than for ordinary legislation.

Lamenting the culture of selfish activities of the legislature in legislative process, Hussain Obaro, a Public Affairs Analyst wrote: “Rather than going to the hallowed chambers to represent their pockets and enrich themselves, the incoming members of the National Assembly should selflessly serve their people through quality representation. The legislature is the backbone of democracy and good governance.”

He further stressed that the commitment and selflessness of lawmakers is crucial for Nigeria to achieve the desired change, urging high level independency and objectivity in the legislative process.

Effort to rebuild citizens’ trust in legislative process gave birth to the establishment of a Strategic Panel on Legislative Accountability by University of Denver in 2015. From the observations of the Panel, “No government by the people can flourish without faith in the governing process. …democratic system relies on a working connection between the public and their representatives to function. Key to the relationship between legislatures and the people is trust.”

The Panel gathered that “When citizens trust their legislature, they are more willing to provide it the authority, support, and resources to do its job effectively. Citizens who trust the government are also more likely to support programs intended to benefit the common good – beyond their own individual interests – and to accommodate diverse points of view. When constituents have faith in the process, they invest in legislators the power and confidence to pursue policies that benefit the state or nation as a whole, both in the near- and long-term, and to make decisions on public concerns without continually seeking popular approval.

It however, warns that “as citizen trust wanes, however, citizens withdraw their support, which in turn undermines the ability of legislatures to perform well. When citizens perceive poor performance by the legislature, their trust is further eroded, creating a self-perpetuating cycle.”

To a large extent, there exists some level of accountability between legislators and the electorate and the actions performed by them. These actions, in the analysis of Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) are subject to the oversight of another individual or institution.

GOPAC identifies two stages of accountability—answerability, the obligation on answering questions based on decisions, and enforcement, the discretion to sanction institutions or individuals responsible for action. In this case answerability and sanctions without adequate enforcement significantly weaken accountability.

In a democracy, while exercising its power, the legislature must seeks to reduce uncertainties that come from it, limit arbitrariness and prevent or even remedy abuses, maintaining power within certain predetermined rules.

The Presidential Veto Power

Another important mechanism for checks and balances on legislative accountability is presidential veto power, which refers to power of the President to refuse to approve a bill or joint resolution and thus prevent its enactment into law is the veto. The president could withhold assent to the amendment if it does not satisfy the strict requirements of Section 9(3) of the 1999 Constitution.

The President’s veto decision comes under Section 58 (2-4) of the Constitution which provides thus: “(2) A bill may originate in either the Senate or the House of Representatives and shall not become law unless it has been passed and, except as otherwise provided by section 59 of this Constitution, assented to in accordance with the provisions of this section. (3) Where a bill has been passed by the House in which it originated, it shall be sent to the other House, and it shall be presented to the President for assent when it has been passed by that House and agreement has been reached between the two Houses on any amendment made on it. (4) Where a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall within thirty days thereof signify that he assents or that he withholds assent”.

The most common way for the president to veto a bill is outright veto of the proposal and return to the legislature with a veto message attached, explaining why the president vetoed the proposal. Also, the president can veto a proposal called a pocket veto, where the president refuses to sign a bill and the Bill is not rejected outright, and legislature adjourns, or takes a break, from its law-making.

Budget Accountability and Constituents’ Participation

By Abubakar Jimoh

As the involvement of citizens in political process is fundamental part of democracy, constituents’ participation in local governance helps ordinary citizens to assess their own needs and participate in local project planning and budget monitoring.

It is evident across the globe that constituents’ participation can help governments to be more accountable and responsive, improve the people’s perception of governmental performance and democratic dividend the constituents receive from the government.

Meanwhile, attaining citizens-inspired local governance in the words of Prof. Ben C. Osisioma of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, “involves effective management of public resources in a manner that guarantees sustainable development in an atmosphere of due process and rule of law, free from wastage and corruption. The goal is to guarantee a people’s right to health, adequate housing, sufficient food and fibre provision, quality education, fair justice and personal security.”

While Prof. Osisioma agrees that good governance is rooted in quality institutions, informed and adequately motivated citizenry, and structures and processes that endure, he did not conceal the fact that budget and audit tools are critical to the process, and within the requirements of accountability framework can bring the so-called dividends of democracy to the constituents.

It is no more news that the endemic socio-economic problems as well as poor budgetary and economic policies implementation has led to wasteful spending, misplaced priority and mismanagement of capital projects in various parts of the country. Constituents’ participation in the monitoring of budget implementation has been recommended to prompt accountability of public funds and ameliorate mismanagement.

In order to promote citizen participation in budget implementation, transparency of government information is paramount, as well as the inclusion of members into decision-making from constituencies whose concerns are being addressed. Transparency of budget information involves public availability of eight different budget documents by the government, including the pre-budget statement, the executive’s budget proposal, the enacted budget, the citizens’ budget, in-year reports, mid-year review, year-end report and the audit report.

For instance, Brazil has promoted constituents’ participation through a number of mechanisms such as Participatory Budget and the establishment of public policy councils. This has helped Brazil in decentralization and participatory budgeting, leading to appreciable shift in more resources to the grassroots, and increased local revenue.
Center for Victims of Torture would observe citizens’ participation from human rights perspective, when it states, “Civil and political rights, including freedom of expression and access to information, which are at the basis of political participation, are human rights in themselves. Citizens’ participation requires trust, belief and wholeness-trust in their co-participants, belief that participation can make a difference, and feeling socially included.”

The Centre however, advised that to ensure strong participation of citizens in local governance, citizens need to understand and want to exercise their right to participate in local political issues.

“They need to feel confident and know where and how to participate, while local institutions should be prepared to facilitate the citizen participation. Engaging citizens in local governance improves accountability and the ability of local authorities to solve problems, creates more inclusive and cohesive communities, and increases the number and quality of initiatives made by communities. One way to increase awareness and to empower citizens to have a voice is through increased access to technology and in particular social media,” it added.

Exploring social media

One way to increase awareness and empower constituents to have a voice is through increased access to technology and in particular social media. National Democratic Institute (NDI) has recommended related developmental interventions to consider citizens and civil society capacity building in advocacy skill, online videos, and other tactics and interventions that they can use to hold governments to account. These it observes will provide tools and insights, and opens spaces for debate and dialogue that can help citizens strengthen their ability to effectively engage in political processes, bring about socio-political change, and improve transparency.

Creating active Facebook or Twitter handle by the governments at all levels, especially in local language to raise citizens’ voices on governance will enhance indiscriminate citizens’ participation and keep the governments informed of citizens’ expectations and perceptions of its projects and policies. Twitter will allow real time access by anyone who registers with the site to send messages of up to 140 characters at a time and read the posts of others.

According to Harvard Kennedy School of Media and Public Policy, as at 2014, twitter has 218 million active users sharing 500 million tweets per day—messages that briefly convey thoughts, opinions, pictures, and links to further information. Without doubt, twitter has gained acceptance among the general public as a method of communicating quickly and easily.

It noted: “Government is considered transparent when the public can see how decisions are being made. Beyond simple transparency, government can become interactive when the public has ways of participating in decision-making as it occurs. Twitter can be deployed for both purposes, as exemplified by innovations tried from 2010 to 2013 by the Texas Senate Committee on Business and Commerce.

“Legislators also are known to use Twitter to express opinions and share information with the public. Some legislators and legislative offices also receive information via Twitter and avail themselves of statistical and analytical information regarding the reach of any particular tweet.”

Opinion survey and formal wall approach

To understand constituents’ perceptions and feedbacks on government’s programmes and policies, Government Finance Officers Association of the United States (GFOA) has recommended the use of new forms of public involvement surveys, focus groups, neighbourhood councils, and Citizen Relationship Management systems, among others as inputs to decisions about service levels and preferences, community priorities, and organizational performance.

Government can explore common methods for soliciting information from constituencies such as: surveys (either in person or via mail, phone, or Internet), focus groups, interviews, comment (or point of service cards), public meetings (such as public hearings, Town Hall meetings, and community vision sessions), and interactive priority setting tools.

Information provision to enhance constituents’ participation can take different forms including the use of newsletters, public notices in community media, public hearings, public reports (Budgets-in-Brief, Popular Annual Financial Reports, or performance reports), web sites, individual or group emails, phone calls, and in-person contact.
As recommends by GFOA, to ensure effective and well implemented constituents’ participation processes, governments should consider in designing their efforts, purposes for involving the public; assurances that they are getting the public’s perspective rather than only that of a small number of highly vocal special interest groups; approaches to eliciting public participation and the points in the planning-budgeting-performance management; information that the process will be incorporated into decision making; communication to the people regarding how the information collected will be and was used; and buy-in from top government officials.

In Pakistan, formal wall approach to drive constituents’ participation has been adopted, as some participatory projects are targeted at building the capacity of teacher training institutions to teach good governance, human rights, gender and youth development and empowerment, and the positive role of media in promoting these concepts with the hope of producing a core of teachers capable of teaching these values to high school students.

CSOs and Budget Tracking

By tracking budgets throughout their implementation, civil society groups can support the constituents in holding government accountable through appropriate assessment to understand whether public resources are being judiciously utilised.

The budget execution process takes five basic steps: monies are released to various line ministries (or departments/agencies) as per the approved budget; agencies initiate expenditures directly or by procuring goods and services; payments are made for these expenditures; expenditure transactions are recorded in accounting books; and in-year reports are produced throughout the year, culminating at the end of the year with the closure of the accounting books and the production of year-end reports.

In a publication titled ‘Our money, Our responsibility: A Citizens’ Guide to Monitoring Government Expenditures’, Vivek Ramkumar observes that if a government makes an honest effort to implement the budget as it is formulated in the budget law, important questions often remain about the specifics of spending. In this case, by engaging with the budget throughout its implementation, civil society can identify lapses and make appropriate advocacy interventions.

To avoid unnecessary diversion of funds, civil society must continuously monitor expenditures as they are incurred to ensure that budgets are implemented for their intended purposes.

For example, Uganda Debt Network (UDN), a coalition of advocacy organizations and individuals united to coordinate a national debt relief campaign, is well known for its success in a community based monitoring and evaluation system including monitoring expenditures incurred by the government from the savings it realized from debt relief. To monitor government programs from the district level down to the village level, UDN established a Community Based Monitoring and Evaluation System (CBMES). UDN was reportedly using the system in eight districts and approximately 47 sub-counties.

As reported by Ramkumar, while implementing CBMES, UDN considered 11 critical steps such as selecting target districts and sub-counties; holding preliminary meetings at the district level to build support for CBMES among district authorities and mobilize key organizations and individuals; meeting with local communities to introduce the CBMES concept, elicit community responses, and mobilize participants; selecting monitors (about 80-100) from local communities; training selected monitors; developing community indicators and an information management and action system, and formulate proposals on the use of monitoring to demand action at different governmental levels; monitoring community-level projects and activities; compiling findings gathered by monitors at the sub-county level; holding a sub-county debriefing with local authorities, identify issues to be brought to higher level authorities, and appoint representatives to the district-level committee; compiling findings gathered by monitors at the district level; holding a one-day district feedback workshop facilitated by UDN to discuss the outcomes of the monitoring effort, current challenges, and follow-up activities. Using the CBMES, UDN has successfully monitored several government programs at the local level and used the information it generated to conduct advocacy at the national level.

From the foregoing, related experiences from different parts of the world have revealed that budget accountability is driven by indiscriminate inclusion and participation of the constituents. The approach Nigerian governments may consider as they prepare to implement 2016 Appropriation Act, rather than maintaining needless secrecy in processes of budget execution.